Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence’

The Internet might be a useful tool for activists and organizers. But overall, it has diminished rather than enhanced political participation, according to new data. Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, has the effect of tamping down diversity of opinion and stifling debate about public affairs. It makes people less likely to voice opinions, particularly when they think their views differ from those of their friends. Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms did not provide new outlets for the discussion of the Snowden-NSA revelations. In fact, people were less likely to discuss these issues on social media than they were in person and, if people thought their social media friends and followers disagreed with them, they were less likely to want to discuss the issues at all. An informed citizenry depends on people’s exposure to information on important political issues and on their willingness to discuss these issues with those around them. The rise of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, has introduced new spaces where political discussion and debate can take place. This report explores the degree to which social media affects a long-established human attribute—that those who think they hold minority opinions often self-censor, failing to speak out for fear of ostracism or ridicule. It is called the “spiral of silence.”

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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