Twitter and Facebook encourage self-censorship, and by their very nature create political silence until group think is achieved. That’s the message being delivered by a new study from teams at the Pew Research Centre in Washington D.C. and New Jersey’s Rutgers University.
According to researchers, the spiral of science, a syndrome in which people refuse to talk about a controversial topic, unless a majority of their peers agree with their views, is alive and well on Facebook and Twitter.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Rutgers University communications professor Keith Hampton explains:
“People do not tend to be using social media for important political discussion. And if anything, it may actually be removing conversation from the public sphere.”
Researchers spoke with almost 2,000 adults, of which 86 percent revealed they would be willing to discuss politics in person. However, only 42 percent of Facebook or Twitter users said they would discuss their political ideas online.
The study found that once a person was sure everyone would agree with their opinion, they were much more likely to jump into the conversation.
Director of the Pew Research Center Internet Project, Lee Rainine, wreies:
“It’s possible that social media actually makes people sensitive to different opinions. Because they use social media, they may know more about the depth of disagreement over the issue in their wide circle of contacts. This might make them hesitant to speak up either online or offline for fear of starting an argument, offending or even losing a friend. There is a concern that a person’s fear of offending someone on social media stifles debate. However, a society where people aren’t able to share their opinions openly and gain from understanding alternative perspectives is a polarized society.”
Keep in mind that the study is focused on sharing our political views with our friends, family members, and co-workers on popular social networks. The study doesn’t take into account the countless internet trolls that share radical and ignorant ideas for the sake of getting a rise out of people online.
Many Facebook users have gone a step further in avoiding political conversations, applications like FB Purity, allow users to censor certain political terms and topics, literally pruning them from their Facebook feeds.
Do you avoid political conversations on Facebook and Twitter?