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If you thought social media helped get the word out, helped spread opinions and ideas, or helped in the democratic process, you would only be partially correct.


How Social Media Silences Debate (reported by The Upshot, NYTimes;  http://nyti.ms/1AQTKMy)


Researchers set out to investigate the effect of the Internet on the so-called spiral of silence theory [remember from Survey of Com Theory class? or get a refresher here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_of_silence]  It says that people are less likely to express their views if they believe they differ from those of their friends, family and colleagues. They found that this spiral of silence describes activity in social media also.


Findings from the study include:

“Of the 14% of Americans unwilling to discuss the Snowden-NSA story in
person with others, only 0.3% were willing to post about it on social
“86% of Americans were willing to have an in-person conversation about the
surveillance program, but just 42% of Facebook and Twitter users were
willing to post about it on those platforms.”


“Those who use Facebook were more willing to share their views if they
thought their followers agreed with them. If a person felt that people in
their Facebook network agreed with their opinion about the Snowden-NSA
issue, they were about twice as likely to join a discussion on Facebook
about this issue.”

Although the internet and social media help people connect and communicate ideas, it mainly connects us with like-minded people. So the deliberation and debate that is helpful to the democratic process is not any better in the vastness of social media than it is face-to-face according to this research.


So, keep blogging, tweeting, posting, etc. BUT – remember to look at other groups and be “brave” enough to share your ideas, discuss, debate, deliberate.  Add to a conversation, not just echo other voices.


For the report summary and a link to the full report, see: