The Political Outcomes of Unfriending: Social Network Curation, Network Agreeability, and Political Participation
36 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2019
Date Written: July 24, 2019
Research has noted a link between social media use and political participation. Scholars have also identified a need to explain this link. The present study is a theoretical and empirical probe into the political outcomes of unfriending people on social media. Drawing on privacy management theory and the social identity perspective, it explores the relationship between social network curation (blocking or unfriending others on social media for political reasons), perceived social network agreeability (how often people agree with the political opinions or political content of friends on social media), and forms of political participation. Using data from a survey of US adults (N=2,018) and a structural equation modelling approach, study results indicate a relational path from social network curation, through expressive participation (e.g. discussing politics and posting about politics on social media), to more demonstrative forms of participation (e.g. donating money and volunteering time). The study contributes to our understanding of the link between social media use and political outcomes by focusing on a unique explanatory mechanism. Policy implications pertain to the role that social media use plays in fostering political involvement. Specifically, if cutting disagreeable friends out of one’s social network is associated with political participation, this raises normative concerns regarding engagement which is underpinned by political polarization and intolerance.
Keywords: social media, political participation, unfriending
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