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.”These were the key findings of the research:
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.
- 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.
Keynote Talk by David Gurteen on Smarter Online Conversations at ECSM 2014