Study: Americans Self-Censor in Facebook “Spiral of Silence”

facebook-privacyAccording to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, about 86 percent of adults were at least somewhat willing to discuss the information Edward Snowden leaked about government surveillance in person, while only 43 percent said they would discuss it on Facebook. Perhaps most troublingly of all, the report also suggests that the social media users concerned with discussing the issue online even censored themselves in real life.

“It has been well documented since before the Internet that a ‘spiral of silence’ descends when people think their opinions are in the minority when compared to those around them – they don’t want to speak out if they think they hold unpopular views,” said Professor Keith Hampton, one of the report’s co-authors. “This kind of self-censoring can mean that important information is never shared.”

While social media would seem to promote a freer and more open discourse, studies like this indicate that the effect of Facebook can be the exact opposite. Users are afraid of posting any inflammatory information that could come back to haunt them later, like with a prospective employer, and they do not want to offend or get an argument with their friends. As it turns out, for as much as people worry about Facebook encroaching on their privacy or controlling what content they see, no one is more effective at censoring you than you.