How are you feeling today? Have you asked yourself that question today? Emotions are part of our daily lives, and every one has them. However, the utility and effects of emotions, and how we manage them, can be severely misunderstood by most. We know it is important, as it is also being measured on a global level by Gallup, which published a report last year saying that 7 out of 10 people have reported to be rather happy. It is the indication to country leaders about how satisfied their citizens are, and how their realities affect them.

As emotions are complex, it may also be difficult for some people to identify what they are feeling, and subsequently, acknowledge or manage them. To add on, we also have beliefs about our emotions, whether or not we are conscious of them. Research has found that people tend to have meta-emotions, or feelings about their feelings when they are paying more attention to their emotions. Relationships amongst people get soured when they do not confront emotions well, and react to unpleasant ones by acting out. Psychologists would offer their advice by recommending that we first take stock of what we are feeling, and what the triggers are. Through the understanding of those feelings, we may then be better at confronting them constructively. Counterintuitively, there are no good or bad emotions, just pleasant or unpleasant ones. However, all emotions are useful and adaptive, giving us signals about what might be going on. 

This video below talks about how to process emotions, and why it is important: 

In every stage of life, emotional skills, or emotional intelligence, are valued. This soft skill is critical for working with people we may not like, handling stress at school, work, or personal life, and dealing with conflicts. However, like other skills, managing our emotions may not come naturally and require learning. There are new products which are therapy-based created around the idea of helping people to learn more about themselves better, and work through their emotions on their own without having to see a professional therapist first. For instance, some of these products are AI chatbots like woebot, or tools like Pacifica to help users cope with stress and anxiety.

Industries formed around emotions and wellbeing 

As AI develops, there are reports of how machines are starting to learn how to read human emotions by different approaches, becoming more emotional. New technology may even learn how we are feeling based on the interactions we have with our mobile devices. Advocates talk about the benefits such as social media platform being able to recognise if users are feeling angry or perhaps even drunk, and hold off the occasionally regrettable posts made during those emotional moments and help the user regulate their online identity.

Although we should not deny how new technology can help us with our lives, there is also the flip side to consider. A critical point could be how ethical are the creators of these technology in ensuring that their products do no harm, or become manipulative?  Social media platforms understand that emotions are easily manipulated through the cues and signals we receive, and they have the incentive to make users more susceptible to advertising messages. 

How can these technology be more regulated, as they try to regulate users? 

Questions for further personal evaluation: 

  1. How do you feel about machines learning to read and respond to human emotions?
  2. What are the potential pitfalls of such technology around emotions?

Useful vocabulary: 

  1. ‘cornerstone’: an important quality or feature on which a particular thing depends or is based
  2. ‘waylaid’: stopped or interrupted (someone) and detained them in conversation or trouble them in some other way

Here are more related articles for further reading:

  1. Good Therapy: How highly emotional intelligent people recognise the functions of emotions, even the unpleasant ones, to get desired outcomes.

“Emotion theorists believe emotions such as fear, sadness, or frustration serve a functional purpose: they convey certain needs that stimulate corrective action. While some may try to ignore these so-called “negative emotions,” people with high emotional intelligence know all emotions contain important data—and they use that information to their advantage.

Emotional intelligence refers to a person’s ability to identify, understand, and manage emotions. People with high emotional intelligence can effectively integrate their emotions with their thinking to produce desired outcomes. In fact, research has consistently found positive associations between emotional intelligence and workplace performance, making it a highly sought-after competency in corporate America.

Emotionally intelligent people quickly learn to identify negative emotions and use them in adaptive ways to achieve greater success.”

  1. Psychology Today: Youtube videos can influence the emotions of their viewers, and can be contagious.  

“We all know from firsthand experience that being around someone who is anxious can make you anxious; being around someone giddy can make you giddy; being around someone grouchy makes you grouchy; and so on. Surprisingly, until now, there’s been relatively little research on how these types of interpersonal emotional “contagions” spread online via YouTube.  

For their recent investigation into emotional contagions and homophily on YouTube, a trio of researchers from Tilburg University led by Hannes Rosenbusch examined 2,083 YouTube vlogs that were selected from a pool of 110 vloggers (a.k.a. “YouTubers”) who had at least 10,000 subscribers.”