Social approval prompts more online hate!

Our lab’s latest work titled “Social Approval and Network Homophily as Motivators of Online Toxicity” was featured on The Conversation!

The article discusses the phenomenon where the act of posting toxic messages on social media is driven by the attention and social approval that the poster receives from like-minded individuals. It suggests that receiving ‘likes’ for such toxic posts encourages the poster to continue or escalate their behavior, leading to more and increasingly hateful messages.

This feedback loop underscores a significant issue in the dynamics of social media interaction. The validation received through ‘likes’ can reinforce and amplify negative behavior, as those posting hateful or toxic content are encouraged by the approval of their audience, often comprised of individuals with similar views. This creates a cycle where the desire for social approval and attention fuels the creation and dissemination of increasingly toxic content.

It’s important to note that this behavior can contribute to a more hostile and divisive atmosphere on social media platforms, where users are incentivized to post content that garners strong reactions, regardless of the negative impact it may have on the community or individuals. This dynamic poses challenges for social media platforms and users alike in fostering healthy, constructive online environments.

Cite as:

Jiang, J., Luceri, L., Walther, J. B., & Ferrara, E. (2023). Social Approval and Network Homophily as Motivators of Online Toxicity. arXiv preprint arXiv:2310.07779.


  1. Online ‘likes’ for toxic social media posts prompt more − and more hateful − messagesThe Conversation
  2. Social media trolls are inspired by ‘likes’ — not hate: studyNew York Post