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"Was it something I said?" "No, it was something you posted!" A study of the spiral of silence theory in social media contexts.

Research paper by Sherice S Gearhart, Weiwu W Zhang

Indexed on: 17 Apr '15Published on: 17 Apr '15Published in: Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking



Abstract

New media technologies make it necessary for scholars to reassess mass communication theories developed among legacy media. One such theory is the spiral of silence theory originally proposed by Noelle-Neumann in the 1970s. Increasing diversity of media content, selectivity, social networking site (SNS) interactivity, and the potential for anonymity have posed various challenges to its theoretical assumptions. While application of the spiral of silence in SNS contexts has been theorized, its empirical testing is scarce. To fill this void, the Pew 2012 Search, Social Networks, and Politics survey is used to test the theory. Results reveal that encountering agreeable political content predicts speaking out, while encountering disagreeable postings stifles opinion expression, supporting the spiral of silence theory in the SNS environment. However, certain uses of SNSs and psychological factors demonstrate a liberating effect on opinion expression.