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Social Media Users Opting To Keep Quiet

New Research Shows Social Media In A Different Light


You may think that the birth of social media meant that the world was a place where people could express their opinions freely, and more frequently, but this appears to be a myth according to a new survey. The survey also reveals that people are less likely to air their thoughts in an offline setting also.

social media nsa
Source: justmediaandsocialchange.com

The Pew Research Centre study that was released on Tuesday found that social media users experience the “spiral of silence.” This term describes people’s tendency to not speak up on certain issues if they think others will disagree with them. This term was found to be particularly relevant when it came to surveillance at the National Security Agency (NSA).

Pew researchers said about the findings: “The results of our analyses show that, even holding other factors such as age constant, social media users are less likely than others to say they would join a discussion about the Snowden-NSA revelations.”

If these results are representative to the wider population online, then the findings would go against a common conception that many people use social media sites differently than in-person communication, and are more likely to post content online that they wouldn't say to someone in physical dialogue.

In the study, Pew surveyed a total of 1,801 adults, and asked them whether they talked about government surveillance under a variety of situations.

Out of the 1,801 adults surveyed, just 43 per cent said that they would be “very willing” or “somewhat willing” to discuss the issue on Facebook, and only 41 per cent said they would be willing to discuss the same thing on Twitter.

Those who use Facebook on a regular basis (multiple times per day) were half as likely to voice their opinions about NSA leaker Edward Snowden in person. In addition to this, the average Twitter user is 0.24 times likely to share his of her opinions with work colleagues than another Internet users not on Twitter.

“Those who do not feel that their Facebook friends or Twitter followers agree with their opinion are more likely to self-censor their views on the Snowden-NSA story in many circumstances - in social media and in face-to-face encounters,” the researchers said.

social media nsa
Source: fpif.com
Despite these results being interesting viewing, there are other factors to take into account when looking at why someone may wish to keep quiet whilst online. Fear of alienating friends and future bosses may prevent people from sharing certain thoughts online, and concerns about bullying may also play a major role in the decision making progress. Time and time again we see news bulletins in regards to online bullying spilling over to the physical world, and this is a very frightening prospect for someone who has an opinion that conflicts with the masses.

Also, the topic of the research is one that is up for debate. The NSA being a U.S intelligence organisation means it is closely linked with politics, and unfortunately politics in the year 2014 has become detached from the majority. No wonder people are reluctant to speak out online about certain governmental organisations when they do not represent them. People have given up with politics, and despite someone like Edward Snowden who exposed the wrong-doings of the NSA, people were not exactly surprised and therefore are less likely to speak about it.

What this research shows is that there is a debate to be had about social media, and how it influences culture, and if the majority were to express deeper feelings about the state of politics, could change come about through online cooperation? Could it spark a change in the physical? Of course, on first reading, the results may appear surprising, but when you consider the number of people who were surveyed, and the topic in question, then you realise that people have just given up with the state of modern day unrepresentative politics.


Alex is an English Literature and Sociology undergraduate whose love for written word has led him to write about some obscure topics in his time. Currently a content writer at Social Media Frontiers, be sure to follow him @AlexSatSMF.

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Social Media Users Opting To Keep Quiet Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 Rating: 5
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