The aim of this study is to explore online social network exposure effects on predicting individual’s willingness to self-censor political expression (WTSC) and political posting behaviors. The spiral of silence (SOS) theory is applied to the context of online social networks wherein three major network characteristics are highlighted: reduced privacy, integration of multiple social context/relationships, and increase in unanticipated exposure to different opinions. The discussion leads us to propose three possible network effects in terms of WTSC and posting behavior including ‘relationship-specific fear of isolation’, ‘incongruence with dominant political orientation’, and ‘exposure to diverse opinions’. Results show that the exposure to diverse opinions is positively associated with WTSC, which in turn is associated with political posting behavior online. Interestingly, while fear of isolation from offline contacts increases WTSC, it has a positive association with actual posting behavior. We speculate to what extent the social conformity proposition of the SOS theory should persist online and call for further exploration of informational nfluence as conceptually distinct from normative influence.
Quality & Quantity – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 23, 2014
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