Presentation (Project) Title

Fight or Flight: Politically Motivated Selective Avoidance Among Social Media Users

Mentor Information

Stephen Neely (School of Public Affairs)

Presentation Format

Event

Abstract

“Selective avoidance” describes a deliberate attempt to mitigate cognitive dissonance by insulating oneself from counter- attitudinal information. It has been argued that the filtering mechanisms associated with social media may facilitate these behaviors, and that this may have significant democratic implications as social media becomes increasingly central to the public sphere. With these concerns in mind, this study examines politically motivated selective avoidance in the context of social media. An experimental survey design is employed to measure the propensity of users to “unfriend” or “unfollow” members of their social networks in response to political disagreement, as well as to gauge how these propensities vary based on the strength of network ties. When compared to previous research, the results suggest potentially higher tendencies toward selective avoidance in the U.S. context than has been previously found in other settings, which may reflect broader trends toward political homogenization in the United States.

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Fight or Flight: Politically Motivated Selective Avoidance Among Social Media Users

“Selective avoidance” describes a deliberate attempt to mitigate cognitive dissonance by insulating oneself from counter- attitudinal information. It has been argued that the filtering mechanisms associated with social media may facilitate these behaviors, and that this may have significant democratic implications as social media becomes increasingly central to the public sphere. With these concerns in mind, this study examines politically motivated selective avoidance in the context of social media. An experimental survey design is employed to measure the propensity of users to “unfriend” or “unfollow” members of their social networks in response to political disagreement, as well as to gauge how these propensities vary based on the strength of network ties. When compared to previous research, the results suggest potentially higher tendencies toward selective avoidance in the U.S. context than has been previously found in other settings, which may reflect broader trends toward political homogenization in the United States.