Social media and political discussion: when online presence silences offline conversation
Type of work: Article (academic)
Categories:e-Democracy | Politics and Political Science | Social Media & Social Software
Tags:spiral of silence
This paper explores the relationship between the use of social media, attitudinal strength, perceived opinion agreement with social ties, and willingness to discuss a political issue in different online and offline contexts. Unlike the anonymous environment of some Internet forums, social media are closely tied to the relationships and activities of everyday life. Social media increasingly make ties from offline contexts persistent online, and, because of the ambient nature of these technologies, awareness of the opinions, interests, and activities of social ties has become pervasive. As such, the use of social media is likely to affect everyday conversation about political issues in on- and offline contexts, including the home, workplace, social gatherings with friends, community meetings, and on social network sites (SNSs). Based on a national probability survey, we find that the use of SNSs (i.e., Facebook and Twitter) has a direct, negative relationship to deliberation in many offline settings. Some uses of these platforms are associated with having a lower, perceived opinion agreement with social ties. As part of a spiral of silence, this further reduces the willingness of social media users to join political conversations in some offline settings. Only those with the strongest attitudes on an issue are immune.