Monday, March 12, 2012

Pew Internet Study: Social Networking Sites and Politics

Thought some of you may find this interesting:


  1. I'll comment on this one so that I can share a related story.

    So, I took this from the link that you posted:

    "Users can be surprised to learn the political leanings of their friends. Some 38% of SNS users have discovered through a friend’s posts that his/her political beliefs were different than the user thought they were."

    I chalk at least part of this up to the false assumption and perception of our relationships in a digitally enhanced (networked media) cosmos. In other words, though I imagine that this varies from person to person, we meet someone or are acquainted with someone and we "friend" them. This doesn't necessarily mean that these persons are friends.

    So, I'd be curious to learn more about (though I did NOT read the full report and perhaps that would have illuminated me) the specifics. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this is widespread, i.e. learning about a political penchant on the network. A case in point:

    A "friend" from college (we were in the same fraternity and on acquaintance terms, though the term "friend" seems fair) decided to comment on one of my posts during the 2008 election. Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton were debating on the University of Texas campus. I made a comment related to the debate. He posted a comment that was obviously ultra-conservative in nature and perhaps assuming some things about my position.

    A brief but thorough banter commenced via messaging (after a bit of wall ranting). Long story cut short, he unfriended me on Facebook because of my "different" position. Funny actually. So...

    "As a rule, the most active and engaged political participants on SNS sit at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, yet their experiences around political material on SNS are quite similar. Very liberal users and very conservative users are often the most likely to have acted for and against others on SNS. They are also more likely than others to have been surprised by their friends’ political views and to be in networks where they agree with what their friends post. Still, even with them, there is as much frequency of disagreement as there is of agreement."

    There are a lot of phrases like "more likely" and "frequency" and "most likely" and "most active" and "as a rule" that I will set to the side, in my box of curiosity. But, the study has some interesting 'stuff and fluff' behind it.

  2. Jack,

    I've experienced the same on SNS. I believe that the disconnectedness of social media lends itself to more direct conversation or argument. I contend these same people would never say these things to your face as they would on facebook. Right? Have we lost the art of legitimate conversation?