Is social media really fostering robust discussion and debate?
According to a new report from the Pew Research Center called “Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence,” the answer is no. In fact, it may be doing the opposite. Pew polled 1,801 Americans, asking them about their “opinions about the Snowden leaks, their willingness to talk about the revelations in various in-person and online settings, and their perceptions of the views of those around them in a variety of online and off-line contexts.”
Pew chose the Snowden story in part because polls have showed Americans are relatively evenly divided on it. Despite the still-prevailing idealistic vision of social media as a platform for engaged citizenry and robust debate, the report notes that “people were less likely to discuss these issues on social media than they were in person.” Moreover, “if people thought their social media friends and followers disagreed with them, they were less likely to want to discuss the issues at all.”