Breaking the silence: the role of social media in fostering community and challenging the spiral of silence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: This research aims to examine the ways and the extent to which social media platforms undermine the spiral of silence by facilitating the expression of diverse voices and opinions. Design/methodology/approach: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with members of closed groups focused on non-consensus topics. Findings: Facebook closed group members perceive the media as isolating and portraying their issues negatively. However, these groups offer support, inclusion and non-judgmental opinion-sharing space. Consequently, members feel more comfortable discussing and sharing the topic outside the group, indicating a slight trend of challenging and undermining the spiral of silence through social networks. Research limitations/implications: The study faces challenges in comparing diverse groups due to unique circumstances, complex needs and societal attitudes. Each group stands alone, potentially yielding slightly different findings. Practical implications: Social media challenges and undermines the spiral of silence, as these opinions are shared with the wider society and can even find their way back to mainstream media outlets. Thus, social media platforms play a significant role in disrupting the spiral of silence and facilitating the expression of diverse opinions that may have been previously suppressed. Social implications: This research emphasizes the critical role of social media in shaping public opinion and its interaction with the broader media landscape, illustrating a circular process where social media disrupts the spiral of silence by facilitating the expression of previously suppressed diverse opinions, which can then potentially influence mainstream media. Originality/value: This study adds value by exploring how social media platforms can challenge and undermine the spiral of silence, enabling the expression of diverse, marginalized and underrepresented opinions in society. It highlights the role of social media in shaping public opinion and discourse, challenging the dominance of traditional media. Its originality emanates from its revelations concerning the legitimization of conversational topics, which may consequently affect media agendas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)710-724
Number of pages15
JournalOnline Information Review
Volume48
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 11 Jul 2024

Keywords

  • Alternative communication
  • Facebook
  • Mainstream media
  • Public opinion
  • Social media
  • Spiral of silence theory

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