FASS CNM Professors Discuss Netizens’ Social Media Behaviour
In two reports recently published in The Straits Times (6 September 2014), Associate Professor Lim Sun Sun and Assistant Professor Elmie Nekmat (Communications and New Media Department) gave their takes on netizens’ willingness to speak up on social media.
In “From rage to rationality in two years”, Assoc Prof Lim spoke in response to a Pew survey which found women and the less-educated to be more willingly to share their views on Facebook than in person. She surmised that the brevity of expression inherent in social media somewhat obscures possible differences in netizens’ educational levels which, subsequently, encourages more to share their views. Other reasons, she added, include the relative ease of use of social media and its soundbite nature which calls for less need for users to substantiate their views.
In “Sshhh…ocial media” Asst Prof Nekmat offered his take on the “spiral of silence” in the online world – the tendency of people not to speak up about controversial issues in public when they believe that their viewpoint is not widely shared. He noted that the perceived permanence of online posts adds to netizens’ online reticence in contrast to offline communication where spoken words disappear as soon as they are forgotten. However, he added that while Singaporeans are cautious about expressing non-mainstream views online, they “like” posts and share them on social media without expressing their opinions explicitly, which suggests that they are not entirely inhibited.
On the drawbacks and advantages of this ‘spiral of silence’, Asst Prof Nekmat pointed out that when one’s peers voice similar opinions, one makes a (possibly false) assumption that that they are representative of the majority. Yet, he acknowledged that this may be beneficial as the gathering of like-minded voices amplifies minority opinions and brings them into the realms of public discussion.
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