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Exploring Selective Exposure and Selective Avoidance Behavior in Social Media

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This study investigates social media users' preferences of encountering or actively avoiding undesired content and conflicts in social interaction with others. Based on a nationwide survey (N=3706) conducted in Finland and using principal component analysis, we identify three different types of social media use in relation to online information sharing and social interaction: conformist, provocative and protective. We then modelled those variations according to demographic variables and subjective life satisfaction. We found that women are more likely to use social media in a conformist and protective way whereas men have a higher probability to be provocative. We also found that younger and more educated people have a higher probability to use social media in a conformist and protective way. Finally, we suggest that subjective life satisfaction more powerfully predicts provocative use compared to age or education.
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Exploring Selective Exposure and Selective Avoidance
Behavior in Social Media
Sanna Malinen
University of Turku
Department of Social Research
Turku, Finland
sanna.malinen@utu.fi
Aki Koivula
University of Turku
Department of Social Research
Turku, Finland
aki.j.koivula@utu.fi
Teo Keipi
University of Turku
Department of Social Research
Turku, Finland
teo.a.keipi@utu.fi
Ilkka Koiranen
University of Turku
Department of Social Research
Turku, Finland
ilkka.a.koiranen@utu.fi
ABSTRACT
This study investigates social media users’ preferences of
encountering or actively avoiding undesired content and
conflicts in social interaction with others. Based on a
nationwide survey (N=3706) conducted in Finland and using
principal component analysis, we identify three different
types of social media use in relation to online information
sharing and social interaction: conformist, provocative and
protective. We then modelled those variations according to
demographic variables and subjective life satisfaction. We
found that women are more likely to use social media in a
conformist and protective way whereas men have a higher
probability to be provocative. We also found that younger
and more educated people have a higher probability to use
social media in a conformist and protective way. Finally, we
suggest that subjective life satisfaction more powerfully
predicts provocative use compared to age or education.
CCS CONCEPTS
Human-centered computing Human computer
interaction (HCI); User studies, → Collaborative and
social computing; Social media
KEYWORDS
selective exposure, selective avoidance, social media, social
networking
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SMSociety '18, July 1820, 2018, Copenhagen, Denmark
© 2018 Association for Computing Machinery.
ACM ISBN 978-1-4503-6334-1/18/07…$15.00
https://doi.org/10.1145/3217804.3217943
ACM Reference format:
Sanna Malinen, Aki Koivula, Teo Keipi, and Ilkka Koiranen. 2018.
Exploring Selective Exposure and Selective Avoidance Behavior
in Social Media. In Proceedings of the International Conference on
Social Media & Society, Copenhagen, Denmark (SMSociety). 1
DOI: 10.1145/3217804.3217943
1 INTRODUCTION
The connection between an individual’s psychological well-
being and social media use has received plenty of scholarly
attention. There is evidence that online social networking
can increase people’s social capital and improve their well-
being [1]. There is also a positive relationship between an
individual’s life satisfaction and intensity of Facebook use,
which has been explained by users’ engagement in behaviors
that contribute to their social capital [2]. Particularly, the
quality of interaction on social media has been found to
matter for psychological well-being. Social media provides
users with many supportive elements, which are important
for experienced life satisfaction [3].
Recently, there has been discussion on how social media
can reinforce people’s existing beliefs and biases. By
providing people with information they prefer and similarly
preventing them from exposure to contradicting views,
social media is suspected to facilitate the emergence of
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Malinen, Koivula, Keipi, & Koiranen
groups with high agreement and non-tolerance of
challenging views, often referred to as echo chambers [4].
The terms “selective exposure” and “selective avoidance”
are used to describe the behavior in which a person actively
seeks for information that supports their views and avoids
information that challenges them [5]. Consistently,
experimental studies have shown that selective exposure to
attitude-consistent messages strengthens related attitudes
and selective exposure to attitude-discrepant messages
weakens related attitudes [6].
In social media, selective avoidance can be easily
performed by removing or hiding unwanted content or
persons. Social media users can add individuals from
different social contexts to their friends list. This
characteristic, which brings people from diverse contexts
together in a single location, is referred to as “context
collapse” [7]. Context collapse is likely to create tensions
when someone attempts to maintain a consistent
presentation of self for these fragmented social media
audiences [7]. However, also increased and repeated
exposure to dissonant information and perspectives can
motivate selective avoidance and use of boundary regulation
tools, such as hiding and unfriending, to control the exposure
to unwanted content and connections that transmit this
content [8, 9]. The exposure to unpleasant or inappropriate
content and attempts to manage it have been named as one
of the main stressors in social media interaction [10].
Previous research indicates that there are substantial differences
in access to online media, use purposes, skills and benefits gained
from its use [11, 12]. In Finland, context of the present study, recent
statistics show that highly educated and wealthier users are utilizing
social media more actively [13]. Gender has also become a
prominent factor in Finns’ social media use during this decade, as
women are more generally logged on to social media sites [14].
Although the majority of research has focused on younger
demographics, some studies on the variety of social media use in
different age groups have surfaced. Older people have been found
to be more conventional and restricted in their social media
participation, while younger adults and especially teenagers have a
much more extensive selection of different behavior models and
roles when using Facebook [15]. There are also age differences in
how users experience privacy on Facebook. For teenagers and
younger adults, having multiple audiences in the same place
disrupts the content sharing process and causes experiences of
social surveillance and social control [16]. As a reaction to this,
they use conformity as a strategy and avoid sharing anything too
private and personal [16]. According to the same study, older adults
over age 40 were less aware of their privacy settings on Facebook,
and overall, they found the privacy tools too difficult to use.
There is still not much work investigating the variety of
people’s preferences regarding social media exposure.
Munson and Resnick [17] found that Internet users vary
greatly in their attitudes regarding diversity and conformity
of information, as some of them prefer a greater spectrum of
views when reading political content more than others. They
argue that none of these behaviors are a fundamental trait of
human behavior that describes all people but instead, they
describe different preferences of different groups of people,
and should be better considered when designing websites
and aggregating content. In this study, we focus on social
media users’ social action and choices in the case of
unwanted content. Our goal is to provide a new frame to
understand how people are dealing with unwanted content
and information. We form a new typology for social
networking site users by means of selective exposure and
selective avoidance. We also assess how sociodemographic
factors and life satisfaction affect various behavior models
on these platforms. The majority of the research
investigating selective exposure and selective avoidance on
social media has been focusing on single platforms, such as
Twitter or Facebook. In this work, we approach social media
more extensively, covering discussion forums, social
networking sites and online news sites with comment
sections.
This work-in-progress paper is based on empirical data
collected via population-wide survey in Finland between
December 2017 and January 2018. With this data we will
answer the following research questions:
1. Is there variety in the respondents behavior in
confronting undesired information and social
interactions?
2. To what extent is online behavior associated with
the demographic background of respondents?
3. To what extent are online behavior and an
individual’s overall life satisfaction associated?
2 DATA AND METHODS
Our analyses are based on a survey, which was collected from
two different sources. The first part was distributed by mail to a
simple random sample of 8000 1574-year-olds who live in
Finland and speak Finnish. A total of 2452 Finns responded to this
collection, which amounted to a 31 percent response rate as those
who could not be reached were omitted from the sample. Secondly,
we improved the data by collecting a sample of 1200 respondents
aged 18-74 from an online panel of volunteer respondents
administrated by a market research company. The final data
included a total of 3706 respondents of which 66% are based on
probability sampling and 34% are based on nonprobability
sampling.
The survey included questions of the participants’ basic
demographics, such as gender, education and age. The data
represent both genders well as 50% of the participants were male
and 50% female. The final sample is also relatively representative
in terms of education, as 51% of the sample has secondary level
education and 34% holds master or bachelor degree. Respondent
age ranged from 18 to 74 years, mean being 51 years, which makes
the age distribution of the data slightly skewed towards the older
age groups as the population mean is 46 with respect to applied age
range.
Other questions focused on their media use and attitudes. For
instance, we asked which traditional and online media they used,
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Exploring Selective Exposure and Selective Avoidance SMSociety, July 2018, Copenhagen, Denmark
the frequency of use and the reasons for use. Usually, older people
might be expected to use the Internet less frequently and with less
variety than younger ones. In general, the Internet and social media
are commonly used in Finland among all age groups, including
older people and unlike in younger age groups, social media use is
expected to grow among people over age 44 [18]. According to the
recent report by Official Statistics of Finland [13], 43% of the age
group of 55-64 years and 25% of the age group of 65-74 years
reported using social networking sites. In this respect, our sample
is bit overrepresented with social media users especially in terms of
older users, as 52% of the age group of 55-64 years and 42% of the
age group of 65-74 years reported using the social networking sites.
We begin our analysis by utilizing principal component analysis
(PCA) for different kind of behavioral variables addressed to social
media use. The main target of PCA is to extract visible features of
how each variables are associated with one another. According to
the PCA solution, we establish dependent variables for
multivariable analysis.
We conduct multivariable analyses separately for different
dependent variables by using ordinary least squared (OLS) models.
The aim of the explanatory analysis is to find the main predictors
for different kind of social media use. In this respect, we test the
extent to which independent variables, namely gender, age,
education and life satisfaction are associated with dependent
variables. We measure the subjects’ experienced life satisfaction
with one question: “How would you rate on a scale from 0 ‘very
unsatisfied’ to 10 ‘very satisfied’ your satisfaction of your life?”
We also control respondents’ social media use frequency.
3 RESULTS
We wanted to find out if there are individual differences in
respondents social media behavior, more specifically, in their
willingness to encounter dissonant views, undesirable content and
conflicts, and if demographic factors explain these differences.
Drawing on existing literature [15, 17], we expected that different
user types could be identified in relation to predictability or
diversity of content, and we created statements that would distinct
these individual differences. Principal component analysis was
conducted in order to reveal users’ different behavioral patterns. In
a questionnaire, applied items were presented to respondents as a
set of statements to the main question of “What do you think of the
following statements”. Respondents were asked to choose their
opinion from a five point Likert-scale in which they were given
options such as 1 “Completely disagree”, 3 Do not agree or
disagree”, and 5 “Completely agree”. A total of nine statements
were presented and they were all employed in PCA. As a result of
PCA, we found three main components measuring respondents’
online behavior from different approaches. These components are
formed on the basis of eight different items as the one item was
excluded from the final solution because of the high uniqueness and
low intercorrelation with any component. The final solution is
presented in Table 1.
The first component, Conformist use, includes items about fear
of hurting others’ feelings, avoidance of conflict, giving a good
impression online and supporting others. The component two,
Provocative use, consists of items about deliberately provoking
others on social media by disagreeing with others and sharing
content that is expected to annoy others. The third component is
named as Protective use, because it describes the aim to protect
oneself from harmful or offensive online content using selective
avoidance strategies. It includes items about hiding undesirable
content and removing or hiding annoying persons from social
networks.
On the basis of the PCA solution, we generated three mean
variables. The descriptive statistics for mean variables is shown in
Table 1. Each of variables are continuous-types and suitable for
parametric tests as interval variables [19]. Next, we run OLS
models to find the main predictors of generated variables. Only
those respondents who used social media at all and had valid scores
on all three dependent variables were included in the analysis.
Table 1: Three Main Components and Their Loadings
Survey questions
1
2
The fear of offending others limits
my posting of my opinions on
social media
.57
I try to give others on social media
an improved image of who I am
.38
I very often “like” other users’
posts in order to show support and
empathy
.38
I purposefully share material on
social media that I believe will
provoke others
.60
I comment on others’ posts on
social media even when I disagree
with them
.62
I share content on social media that
I feel could lead to disputes
.33
I have hidden content that conflicts
with my points of view on social
media
I have hidden or removed annoying
or bothersome users on social
media
Descriptive statistics for mean variables,
Means (Std.dev)
Component 1: Conformist use
2.5
(0.9)
Component 2: Provocative use
2.2
(0.8)
Component 3: Protective use
Table 2 displays the effects of demographic variables and life
satisfaction on the dependent variables. As seen in the first column
that presents effects on the conformist use, gender was a crucial
predictor as females differ significantly from males. Also there can
be seen a strong effect of age, as the younger people tend to use
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Malinen, Koivula, Keipi, & Koiranen
social media in a more conformist way than older. However,
interestingly, this effect can be seen solely when examining the
three oldest age groups (45-55, 55-64 and 65-74). When it comes
to differences between educational levels, we found that the
respondents with master degree had the highest scores in the
conformist variable. Those with higher life satisfaction tend to be
less conformist.
Table 2: Predicting Three Types of Social Media Behavior
(1)
(2)
(3)
VARIABLES
Conformist
use
Provocative
use
Protective
use
Female
0.155***
-0.323***
0.182***
(0.031)
(0.029)
(0.043)
Age (omitted under 30 years)
31-44
-0.069
0.068
-0.050
(0.049)
(0.045)
(0.068)
45-54
-0.175***
0.076
-0.337***
(0.052)
(0.048)
(0.072)
55-64
-0.304***
-0.022
-0.515***
(0.051)
(0.047)
(0.070)
65 or older
-0.294***
-0.014
-0.610***
(0.053)
(0.049)
(0.073)
Education (omitted primary/secondary)
Tertiary
0.060
-0.011
0.133**
(0.036)
(0.033)
(0.050)
Master
0.170***
0.005
0.192***
(0.040)
(0.037)
(0.056)
Life satisfaction
-0.034***
-0.040***
-0.033**
(0.008)
(0.008)
(0.011)
Constant
1.885***
2.398***
1.790***
(0.096)
(0.088)
(0.133)
Observations
2,716
2,716
2,716
R-squared
0.247
0.074
0.197
Standard errors in parentheses
Models control for social media use frequency
*** p<0.001, ** p<0.01, * p<0.05
When moving to the next column in order to evaluate predictors
of provocative use, we can see that the direction of gender effect
turn around as men reported higher scores than women.
Interestingly, we did not find age or education effects in terms of
provocative use. Instead, the effect of life satisfaction could be seen
to be extremely strong. Those with higher life satisfaction reported
lower scores for provocative use. Finally, we turn to analyze
protective use. Here, we also found a significant difference between
genders, as women reported higher scores. As is the case with
conformist use, protective use is also dependent on users’ age.
Younger users seem to be more protective than the older users.
Again, this is especially the case of the three oldest groups who
reported lower scores than younger. In terms of education, we
found that highly educated users had higher scores. The final
component underlines the effect of life satisfaction, which was
similar in all three behavior models.
4 CONCLUSIONS
In this work-in-progress paper, we have presented the initial
findings from the nationwide survey exploring people’s social
media behavior, our special focus being on selective exposure and
selective avoidance. Using principal component analysis we
identified three types of social media use, which implicate
differences in users’ tolerance of conflicts and exposure to
unwanted content. We generated three mean variables on the basis
of component solution for further analysis.
According to the results of OLR analysis, there are significant
structural differences in how different population groups encounter
dissimilar opinions and conflicts. In terms of gender, women are
more likely to protect themselves or act conservatively on social
media. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to act provocatively.
Also, the highly educated respondents are more likely to protect
themselves from dissonant content or act more conciliatory when
exposed to such subject matter. Our findings also show the effect
of age in two behaviors, conformist and protective, as oldest
respondents were less conformist and protective online. This
finding is similar to previous work [16], which indicates that
particularly young people experience social control online, and
therefore, they tend to be more restricted in what they share with
others. This may also indicate that older people are less aware of or
less concerned about “netiquette” and their own privacy. However,
in relation to provocative social media behavior, no age differences
were found.
In terms of life satisfaction, our findings are not completely
uniform with previous research. Surprisingly, those who are
conformist, i.e., engage in supportive behavior and avoid offending
others, did not score highest in life satisfaction. On the other hand,
the effect of life satisfaction was extremely strong in provocative
social media use: those who tend to engage in provocative behavior
were the least satisfied with their lives. This confirms the
assumptions that anti-social online behavior such as trolling and
deliberately offending others reflects an individual’s lower
psychological well-being. These findings also suggest that people
with higher life satisfaction do not need to resort to any of these
different strategies, while those who are less satisfied with their
lives are more dependent on these strategies when they are
confronting undesired content.
Scholars have argued that one of the most harmful
consequences of social media is exposure to antagonist material
[20-22]. Taking this into account, it is not surprising that people are
actively protecting themselves from such content. Especially
women and younger age groups engaged in selective avoidance,
which may indicate that those groups were more aware of harmful
online content than others, or they did not prefer seeing conflicting
views in their social media newsfeeds.
When considering the formation of echo chambers in social
media environment, one of the most crucial factors is people’s
tendency to actively keep one’s social media content preference-
consistent. This can mean that different population groups’ values
and views are becoming more separated. In this sense, those who
try to protect themselves are placing their individual and personal
preferences before the benefit of society as a whole. Given that
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Exploring Selective Exposure and Selective Avoidance SMSociety, July 2018, Copenhagen, Denmark
isolation can encourage polarization in terms of norms, behaviors
and attitudes, the formation of echo chambers poses a social risk.
Thus, the balance between the desire to protect oneself and the cost
of isolating oneself from opinions or people with whom one
disagrees is an important one; where users seek to minimize
challenging viewpoints that might otherwise widen a worldview
beneficially, for example, a social loss is experienced in the form
of lost opportunities for valuable dialogue. Harmful biases,
prejudices and beliefs in inaccurate information represent the
harmful side of protecting oneself against discomfort. On the other
hand, protecting oneself from harassment and intrusive content or
users is an important aspect of online navigation, one that should
not be eliminated.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We thank the research group of Economic Sociology at
University of Turku for making this survey possible. The research
for this article was funded by the HS Foundation Grant (decision
date 30.3.2017) and the Strategic Research Council of the Academy
of Finland (decision number 314250).
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... In Article IV, these behaviors are measured with three composite variables: conformist, provocative, and protective behaviors. 28 With the aid of factor analysis, we identify and form the three dependent variables based on a variety of survey questions 29 (see also Malinen et al., 2018). The first composite variable, conformist behavior, is based on items regarding the desired modes of action in deliberative democracy (Santana, 2014;Wright & Street, 2007). ...
... 29 However, because of the maximum word count required by the journal, this factor solution is not included in the article but is available from the author upon request. Very similar analysis is presented in an earlier article (see Malinen et al., 2018). However, in another article, we utilize principal component analysis and a partially different dataset (Malinen et al., 2018). ...
... Very similar analysis is presented in an earlier article (see Malinen et al., 2018). However, in another article, we utilize principal component analysis and a partially different dataset (Malinen et al., 2018). uniqueness with respect to the composite factor. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
In this dissertation, I assess interaction in social media as a novel mode of political participation and ask how are party politics extended within the social media public sphere in Finland during the 2010s. In this research, I evaluate the formation of the social media political sphere by analyzing the party–political, demographic, and ideological standings from which the sphere is produced and accessed, and how these factors are reconstructing social structures and orders on social media platforms. This dissertation concentrates on the six largest parties in Finland, namely the Social Democratic Party, the Finns Party, the National Coalition Party, the Center Party, the Green League, and the Left Alliance. By combining theoretical perspectives from a variety of academic fields, such as sociology, political science, social psychology, and economic sociology, the dissertation attempts to produce nuanced understandings of social, ideological, and party-political origins of digital participation and other topical phenomena, such as political polarization and spread of hate speech, in the Finnish political context. In addition to a theoretical introduction, the dissertation comprises five research articles that cross-expose the party-related political actions on social media platforms from different perspectives. Articles I and II form temporal and structural frames for understanding the evolution of the social media political sphere in Finland. In Article I, we investigate the current state of and recent changes in access to social media, as well as the utilization of social media platforms for various purposes by the Finnish population. The social mechanisms that guide the formation of the social structure of the social media sphere are evaluated in Article II. In the following articles, we provide a more nuanced understanding of the formation of the social media political sphere. In Article III, we evaluate the state of the social media political sphere by assessing social media participation among party supporter groups in the Finnish political field and contribute to the discussion on the effects of party supporters’ sociodemographic background and value-based premises on social media participation. In Articles IV and V, social media participation is understood as an explanatory mechanism associated with party supporters’ behavioral tendencies on social media and affective aspects of party members’ commitment to their parties. The research contributes novel knowledge related to political participation in social media and the formation of the political sphere in Finland during the 2010s. In the dissertation, I propose that political discussions in social media could be understood as a political activity through which participants can modify the public opinion by raising ideological aims and desires within the public sphere. The research illuminates how social structures and ideological aims both accelerate and attenuate political activity in the social media political sphere. In addition, the research shows how social structures and ideological stances are reflected in the structures of social media networks. Results of the dissertation also indicate that the social media political sphere emphasizes the visibility of the new identity parties, namely the Finns Party, the Green League, and the Left Alliance. Accordingly, the results infer that political discussions related to post-material and neo-conservative issues are highlighted on social media, which is especially reflected in the pronounced activity of the new identity parties’ supporters and members within both the social media sphere and political parties.
... In this study, we concentrate on three different behavioral styles, namely protective, provocative, and conformist (see Malinen, Koivula, Keipi, & Koiranen, 2018). Protective behavior is related to the communication style where people are able to restrict the content to which they are exposed and the networks to which they belong. ...
... The potential selection bias was considered by comparing the sample distribution of the social media users with the distribution of Finnish social media users according to the most recent (2018) Official Statistics of Finland. To balance the final sample to correspond with the population criteria regarding the age distribution of social media users, we computed post-stratification weights based on available official statistics (see Malinen et al., 2018;Sivonen et al., 2018). ...
... For example, the respondents were asked whether they had hidden or removed unpleasant social media content or people from their social networks, intentionally shared content that was offensive or provoked others, or restricted their self-expression out of fear of offending others (see Table 1). Based on those questions and with the aid of factor analysis, 3 we identified three different behaviors in relation to selective exposure and social interaction on social media: conformist, provocative, and protective behavior (see Malinen et al., 2018). ...
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In this study, we examine how political party preference and politically active social media use associate with social media behaviors – namely, conformist, provocative, and protective – in the context of the current political sphere in Finland. In our empirical analysis, we use a nationally representative dataset collected from 3,724 Finnish citizens in 2018. Our research confirms the assumption that there are notable differences in the social media behaviors of the supporters of different political parties. Additionally, our research shows that politically active social media use increases the occurrence for all three aforementioned behaviors. The study’s results also confirm that major differences in online behavior exist among the new identity parties’ supporters, who rely heavily on post-materialist and neoconservative political values.
... United States of America is the most commonly used country for social media network political polarization case studies [3,7,16,22], however, it is possible to find works that analyze the political scenario of other countries, such as Brazil [6,19,20], Italy [2,15], Mexico [13], South Korea [11], Finland [14], and Egypt [1]. ...
... To verify the quality of the public debate we used a pre-trained transformer model for detecting toxic speech in Portuguese, trained with ToLD-Br [12] corpus, and available in the corpus authors' GitHub 14 . The results identifies the presence of toxic speech in all interactions between groups, the most common type being obscene language and insults. ...
Conference Paper
Installed in April 2021, the COVID-19 Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (PCI) aimed to investigate omissions and irregularities committed by the federal government during the COVID pandemic in Brazil, which resulted in the death of more than 660,000 Brazilians and placed it among the countries with the most deaths caused by COVID-19. The investigated government was elected in 2018, in one of the most polarized elections in Brazilian history, and social media played a prominent role in this polarization. Not far from that, the PCI also generated a great popular commotion on social media networks. This paper aims to analyze the public debate related to the PCI of COVID on Twitter, identifying groups, examining their characteristics and interactions, and verifying evidence of political polarization in this social network. For this, we collected 3,397,933 tweets over a period of 26 weeks, and analyzed four distinct networks, based on different types of users interactions, to identify the main actors and verify the presence of segregated groups. In addition, we use natural language preprocessing to detect group characteristics and toxic speech. As a result, we identified three users groups, based on their use of hashtags and using a community detection technique. The group against the PCI is made up of conservatives and supporters of the government targeted by the investigations and presents the highest internal homogeneity. The other two groups, moderated users and opposed to the government, are formed by actors from the most varied political spectrum, containing users from the political left, center, and right, in addition to the main media outlets in the country. Moreover, other evidences of political polarization were found even in less segregated networks, where users from different groups interact with each other, but with the presence of toxic speech.
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Cancer patients seek information about their health and illness using many different approaches. Some prefer to seek intensively whereas other avoid seeking information. Over the course of the cancer continuum an individual may meet their needs using several different approaches. In this paper, we explore how avoidance can be an approach used as part of information seeking activities and not just as an alternative approach. Interviews with six current and former cancer patients were conducted and audio recorded for transcription. The transcriptions were coded to identify themes and concepts. We identify the different patterns of information seeking among the interviewees ranging from seeking intensively to avoiding information. Furthermore, we find that exposing yourself selectively to information as well as avoiding some information can be strategies to protect the information seeker from information the individual is not able to cope with. This study indicates that information seeking approaches are overlapping.
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Over the past few decades, various types of hate material have caused increasing concern. Today, the scope of hate is wider than ever, as easy and often-anonymous access to an enormous amount of online content has opened the Internet up to both use and abuse. By providing possibilities for inexpensive and instantaneous access without ties to geographic location or a user identification system, the Internet has permitted hate groups and individuals espousing hate to transmit their ideas to a worldwide audience. Online Hate and Harmful Content focuses on the role of potentially harmful online content, particularly among young people. This focus is explored through two approaches: first, the commonality of online hate through cross-national survey statistics. This includes a discussion of the various implications of online hate for young people in terms of, for example, subjective wellbeing, trust, self image and social relationships. Second, the book examines theoretical frameworks from the fields of sociology, social psychology and criminology that are useful for understanding online behaviour and online victimisation. Limitations of past theory are assessed and complemented with a novel theoretical model linking past work to the online environment as it exists today. An important and timely volume in this ever-changing digital age, this book is suitable for graduates and undergraduates interested in the fields of Internet and new media studies, social psychology and criminology. The analyses and findings of the book are also particularly relevant to practitioners and policymakers working in the areas of Internet regulation, crime prevention, child protection and social work/youth work.
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This study examines the phenomenon of politically motivated selective avoidance on Facebook in the context of the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement protests in 2014. We conceptualize selective avoidance as individual choices that users make to shield themselves from undesirable dissonant views by removing unwanted information and breaking social ties that transmit such information. Given the political turmoil and high level of polarization during the protests, we argue that selective avoidance was related to the socio-psychological factor of perceived out-group threat. We present an analysis of a survey of 769 students from Hong Kong conducted at the height of the street protests. We find that 15.6% of the respondents removed content and/or unfriended a Facebook friend during the protests. The use of Facebook for protest-related information and expression was associated with higher likelihood of selective avoidance, which in turn predicted actual participation in the street protests. The level of perceived out-group threat strengthened the positive relationship between Facebook use and selective avoidance. We thus argue that group conflict in a time of political turmoil may catalyze selective avoidance, transforming a heterogeneous socio-informational environment into a more insulated gated community. Such acts may promote protest participation but also lead to a more fragmented and polarized citizenry.
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Before the 2013 German federal election, 121 participants completed a 2-session online study (which paralleled a U.S. study before the 2012 presidential election). They browsed online search results pertaining to 4 political issues while selective exposure was unobtrusively measured. In a 4 × 2 × 2 (topic × issue stance × source credibility) within-subjects design, the search results indicated either issue support or opposition, associated with low- or high-credibility sources. Hypotheses were derived from cognitive dissonance, approach-avoidance, and motivated cognition models. Findings yielded a confirmation bias. Attitude-consistent exposure uniformly reinforced attitudes; attitude-discrepant exposure uniformly weakened attitudes. Analyses with parallel U.S. data showed a stronger confirmation bias in the United States than in Germany.
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In a representative survey of the Dutch population we found that people with low levels of education and disabled people are using the Internet for more hours a day in their spare time than higher educated and employed populations. To explain this finding, we investigated what these people are doing online. The first contribution is a theoretically validated cluster of Internet usage types: information, news, personal development, social interaction, leisure, commercial transaction and gaming. The second contribution is that, based on this classification, we were able to identify a number of usage differences, including those demonstrated by people with different gender, age, education and Internet experience, that are often observed in digital divide literature. The general conclusion is that when the Internet matures, it will increasingly reflect known social, economic and cultural relationships of the offline world, including inequalities.
Chapter
This study is focused on questions regarding online identifications. We intend to examine the extent to which different demographic groups and generations in Finland identify with online communities in 2009 and 2017. Our empirical data are derived from nationally representative surveys collected in Finland in 2009 (n=1,202) and 2017 (n=1,648). The findings indicated that identification with online communities has increased in Finland between 2009 and 2017. Notably, demographic differences have diminished over time as the popularity of online groups has increased among middle-aged citizens especially. Analysis showed an interesting interaction between age cohort and observed year. It seems that younger generations have experienced a communal backlash, in which identification to online communities has decreased, while identification with traditional social groups has not changed.
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Purpose The paper examines how different age groups construct and enact normality within social networking sites (SNS) and consequently aims to extend theory in the area of online interactions. Design/methodology/approach The chosen research site was Facebook and the research design involved focus groups across three different age groups: teenagers, young adults and the middle-aged. In total there were 78 participants. The focus groups explored metaphoric images of Facebook interactions. In doing so, participants were asked to draw a picture to represent their metaphor and following this, to position themselves and other characters within the picture. The drawings as well facilitators’ records provided the main dataset for the study. Findings Connective and protective encounters were found to be used by different age groups when constructing and enacting normality on SNS. Further, it emerged that the interpretation and enactment of normality across the different age groups significantly varied. The metaphorical images have transpired as being a resourceful way of unpacking these differences. Research limitations/implications The study relied on focus groups in order to capture metaphorical images across generations. It did not include interviews with individual participants to elicit the extent to which they agreed with the group metaphor or whether there was anything else they might have presented in the drawings. This could be on the agenda for future research. Practical implications The findings of the study suggest that SNS managers and designers should sympathise with the view that users of different ages engage in different ways with SNS and as a result user interfaces should be customized according to the age of the user. Originality/value This is the first study in which the concept of normality has been adopted as a theoretical lens for understanding interactions on SNS. Further, this work adds to the limited body of research on SNS use across different generations whilst it expands on the range of methodologies used within the IS field.
Conference Paper
This study approaches online social networking from the opposite direction, focusing on unsociability, in an attempt to find out how friendships are negotiated and terminated online. The research data was obtained via an online survey (N=107) targeted to SNS users. The findings show that Facebook is closely connected to offline social life, and the fading of offline relationship was the most common reason for cutting ties on Facebook. Usually, the people who were unfriended represented weak ties. Even though unfriending can be considered as the hardest form of unsociability, it was more commonly used than restricting content from certain people. On Twitter and other SNSs, the relationships were less personal. Therefore, ‘unfollow’, ‘block’ and other unsocial features were used to filter and regulate the content subscribed to. Particularly on Facebook, attention should be paid to developing affordances that would enable the system to better match the dynamic and complex nature of social relationships.