Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How politics divide Facebook friendships

Date:
January 29, 2014
Source:
Georgia Institute of Technology
Summary:
A new study suggests that politics are the great divider. People who think the majority of their friends have differing opinions than their own engage less on Facebook. For those who choose to stay logged in and politically active, the research found that most tend to stick in their own circles, ignore those on the other side and become more polarized.

Those who say one should never talk about politics in mixed company have never logged on to Facebook. These days a typical newsfeed is peppered with links, opinions and jabs about the latest political topics.

Related Articles


A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that politics are the great divider. People who think the majority of their friends have differing opinions than their own engage less on Facebook. For those who choose to stay logged in and politically active, the research found that most tend to stick in their own circles, ignore those on the other side and become more polarized.

At the same time, the study suggests a few design changes that could allow the social media platform to bridge political differences. By displaying shared interests between friends during their prickly conversations, Facebook could help diffuse possible arguments and alleviate tension. The research also notes that increasing exposure and engagement to weak ties could make people more resilient in the face of political disagreement.

"People are mainly friends with those who share similar values and interests. They tend to interact with them the most, a phenomenon called homophily," said Catherine Grevet, the Georgia Tech Ph.D. student who led the study. "But that means they rarely interact with the few friends with differing opinions. As a result, they aren't exposed to opposing viewpoints."

Facebook's algorithms don't help the cause. Newsfeeds are filled with the friends a person most often interacts with, typically those with strong ties. Grevet suggests that the social media site should sprinkle in a few status updates on both sides of political issues. That would expose people to different opinions, which are typically held by weak ties.

"Designing social media toward nudging users to strengthen relationships with weak ties with different viewpoints could have beneficial consequences for the platform, users and society," said Grevet.

The study surveyed more than 100 politically active Facebook users in the spring of 2013 amid debates about budgets cuts, gay marriage and gun control regulations. The majority of participants were liberal, female and under the age of 40, mirroring the traditional Facebook user. More than 70 percent said they don't talk about politics with their friends with different opinions. When they saw something they didn't agree with, 60 percent said they ignored it and didn't comment. When they did, sometimes it made the person question the relationship and disassociate and from the friend.

"Even though people could simply unfriend someone with different opinions, and there were certainly those who did that, there were many relationships that were able to be maintained," said Grevet. "Through a combination of behaviors on Facebook like hiding, tuning out, logging off or avoiding certain conversations, people negotiated around those differences to stay connected."

That's why she feels social media sites like Facebook could support those relationships better, for instance, by highlighting shared interests between acquaintances.

Grevet will present the study in February at the Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing conference in Baltimore. Her advisor is Eric Gilbert, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech's School of Interactive Computing, who has recently studied office gossip and successful phrases on Kickstarter.

The article can be found online at https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15504661/paper430.pdf


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Georgia Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Georgia Institute of Technology. "How politics divide Facebook friendships." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140129091749.htm>.
Georgia Institute of Technology. (2014, January 29). How politics divide Facebook friendships. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140129091749.htm
Georgia Institute of Technology. "How politics divide Facebook friendships." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140129091749.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

AP (Dec. 16, 2014) More departments are ordering their first responders to sit in on training sessions that focus on how to more effectively interact with those with autism spectrum disorder (Dec. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Newsy (Dec. 12, 2014) A study out of Britain suggest men are more idiotic than women based on the rate of accidental deaths and other factors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins