Emotions, Feedback, and Social Engagement in Photo Sharing and ‘Liking’ Behaviours on Social Media
: (Alternative Format Thesis)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Contemporary social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, offer a wide functionality to their users. A person can do a multitude of activities - from online shopping to making video calls - without having to leave the platform for another website or application. However, it can hardly be disputed that these social media owe much of their popularity to two simple affordances of content sharing and feedback provision. Whilst these behaviours became commonplace for many people, little is known about how and why individuals make decisions about posting images and ‘liking’ content on social media.

This thesis investigates the factors that shape social media photo sharing and ‘liking’ and studies the relationships between posting behaviours, reactions to feedback, and social engagement. Drawing on the variety of concepts, such as imaginary audiences, self-presentation, impression management, emotion regulation, reciprocity, and social grooming, the studies in this thesis explore why social media users share photos and ‘like’ posts, and how received feedback facilitates changes in posting behaviours.

The first paper of this thesis focused on understanding why people share images online, how they choose photos to post, and how they react to feedback. The study employed semi-structured interviews, fictitious scenarios, and photo elicitation to explore the full journey of photo sharing from the creation of a post to post-feedback behavioural changes. The findings of the first paper facilitated the development of a conceptual model of the influence of ‘likes’ and comments on posting frequency and content change mediated by emotions. The outcomes of both papers highlighted the importance of received feedback in regulating photo sharing behaviours, and, thus, the aim of the third study was to explore social media engagement in more detail and investigate why individuals ‘like’ photos in the first place. The paper drew on the concepts of reciprocity, social grooming, relational closeness, tie strength, and emotion regulation to identify the patterns of ‘liking’ behaviours and the significant factors that shape them.
Therefore, the results of this thesis contribute to the academic knowledge in the areas of self-presentation, impression management, imaginary audiences, emotion regulation, reciprocity, relational closeness, tie strength, and social grooming and have practical implications for digital marketing and social media user experience research.
Date of Award18 Jul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorLukasz Piwek (Supervisor) & Adam Joinson (Supervisor)


  • social media
  • photo sharing
  • social engagement
  • liking
  • emotions
  • feedback
  • Instagram
  • Facebook

Cite this