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Home > Trend Watch > 2014 > September 1 > Is Social Media Creating a "Spiral of Silence"?

Trend Watch

Perspective on the buzz

In whispered tones: Recent data from Pew suggests that social media creates a "spiral of silence" related to controversial issues that is quite different from in-person dialogue on tough subjects. While outlets like Twitter or Facebook might seem like good places to express minority views and "broadening public discourse," people are leery of speaking out.

Pew's research asked people to rate their level of comfort with discussing Edward Snowden's leaks related to the NSA's "big-brother" style surveillance policies. They found that people were significantly less willing to post their opinions about the story to social media than discuss it in person (42% vs. 86%). In both live and online settings, people were "more willing to share their views if their audience agreed with them." Also, hardly anyone who wasn't comfortable discussing it in person would be willing to share about it online (0.3%), squashing the theory that introverts are more likely to voice controversial opinions online.

So what to make of all those controversies in your media feeds? They're likely evidence that those posting them are expecting agreement, a nice online echo chamber. Shhhhh

For strategies and wisdom for doing ministry in the day of the social web, be sure to read our full issue on "E-Ministry," featuring balanced and practical perspectives on social media and the church. Be sure to search our site on the topic too, for diverse takes on the soul of technology.

Related Topics:ResearchTrends
Posted: September 1, 2014; All posts for week of September 1, 2014

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