Social media users shy away from opinions
People on Facebook and Twitter say they are less likely to share their opinions on hot-button issues, even when they are offline, according to a surprising new survey by the Pew Research Center.
The study… challenges the view of social media as a vehicle for debate by suggesting that sites like Facebook and Twitter might actually encourage self-censorship. Researchers said they detect what they call the “spiral of silence” phenomenon: Unless people know their audience agrees, they are likely to shy away from discussing anything controversial.
“People do not tend to be using social media for this type of important political discussion. And if anything, it may actually be removing conversation from the public sphere,”…
- the typical Facebook user—someone who logs onto the site a few times per day—was actually half as likely to discuss the Snowden case at a public meeting as a non-Facebook user.
- Someone who goes on Twitter a few times per day was one-quarter as likely to share opinions in the workplace compared with those who never use Twitter.
Only when a person felt that their Facebook network agreed with their opinion were they twice as likely to join a site discussion on the issue, the survey found.
Another finding was that social media didn’t make it easier for people to share opinions they wouldn’t otherwise share. Of the 14 percent of Americans unwilling to discuss the Snowden case with others in person, fewer than one-half of 1 percent were willing to discuss it on social media.
“Because they use social media, they may know more about the depth of disagreement over the issue in their wide circle of contacts,” he said. “This might make them hesitant to speak up either online or offline for fear of starting an argument, offending or even losing a friend.”
“A society where people aren’t able to share their opinions openly and gain from understanding alternative perspectives is a polarized society,” he said.