A recent study has revealed that social media platforms might actually encourage self cescorship, and that users are shying away from expressing their opinions on hot button issues.
It suggests that people are less likely to discuss anything controversial unless they know their audience is going to agree with them.
This is interesting considering the upcomoing election here in New Zealand; a topic that gets up a lot of people’s grills.
I’ve noticed on my own Facebook page that there is only a select few who even mention the elections, and those same people are the only people who seem to comment on anything I put up myself.
More strangely, I’ve even found my self second guessing whether I should post something, because I’m worried someone’s going to get all “part time politician” on me when I post something they don’t like.
Sites like Facebook were once considered a vehicle for debate, but the study (done in conjunction with Rutgers University in the U.S), argues that it has become the opposite.
Some users post certain status updates or photos knowing what’s going to get likes or comments, and in the same way they know what people aren’t going to appreciate.
I’ve deleted people off Facebook simply because their posts annoyed me, and I wasn’t really friends with them in the first place. I imagine that if I posted something that offended people or annoyed them, they’d be likely to delete me before arguing with me online and causing a big Facebook stand off.
I have on friend who likes to comment on anything controversial people post on Facebook. Half the time I am sure he’s trolling, but even so, I can never be bothered getting into a big argument online, so I don’t bite and ignore his posts. And the more he does it, the more I notice that less and less people are commenting.
Are people becoming so afraid of online backlash that they just don’t voice their opinions? Are people so quick to disagree and argue with something another person says online that people aren’t willing to risk it anymore?
How many of your friends on Facebook are open about what political party they vote for? Are you too scared to say you support John Key or that you’ll be voting Green this year? How many religious friends do you know said anything about the Marriage Amendment Bill or did anyone you know post anything that was different to the status quo?
While many people might say keeping political debate off Facebook is a matter of tact, if fear of offending someone or fear of being disagreed with is behind the reasons people are keeping quiet, this is bad news.
Other people’s opinions are important for understanding alternate perspectives and opening your mind, and the sharing of ideas and rich debate only help you learn and mature.
Of course there are always going to be those people who berate you online. But remember; you can just block them.