Blog Post

Is Social Media silencing personal opinion?

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 24 February 2015



Is Social Media silencing personal opinion?
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 176
Posted DateTuesday 24 February 2015 19:23 GMT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen
Linkshttp://www.pewinternet.org/2014/08/26/social-media-and-the-s ... 
CategoriesConversation; Social Business

Social media is not living up to its promise of being an online outlet for discussion that mirrors our communications and conversations that take place in the offline world. In fact, people are less willing to discuss important issues on social media, than they are in real life, a new report from Pew Research Center has found.
A major insight into human behavior from pre-internet era studies of communication is the tendency of people not to speak up about policy issues in public -- or among their family, friends, and work colleagues --when they believe their own point of view is not widely shared. This tendency is called the “spiral of silence.”

Some social media creators and supporters have hoped that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter might produce different enough discussion venues that those with minority views might feel freer to express their opinions, thus broadening public discourse and adding new perspectives to everyday discussion of political issues.


The survey reported in this report sought people's 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.

These were the key findings of the research:
  • People were less willing to discuss the Snowden-NSA story in social media than they were in person.
  • Social media did not provide an alternative discussion platform for those who were not willing to discuss the Snowden-NSA story.
  • In both personal settings and online settings, people were more willing to share their views if they thought their audience agreed with them.
  • Previous ‘spiral of silence' findings as to people's willingness to speak up in various settings also apply to social media users.
  • Facebook and Twitter users were also less likely to share their opinions in many face-to-face settings.
The research confirms some of my observations over recent years about face to face conversation and the problems of creating forums for good online conversations that I spoke about in this recent talk on Smarter Online Conversations at the University of Brighton.

Keynote Talk by David Gurteen on Smarter Online Conversations at ECSM 2014

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
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