Expression avoidance and privacy management as dissonance reduction in the face of online disagreement

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Original languageEnglish
Article number101894
Journal / PublicationTelematics and Informatics
Online published17 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


The present study examines how young adults use expression avoidance strategies and social media privacy management settings to reduce dissonance when encountering online disagreement while maintaining an interpersonal relationship. An online focus group interview of 26 young adults conducted in 2021 in Hong Kong—a conflict-avoidance Eastern society but with a highly politically polarized online landscape—found that most discussants regarded interpersonal harmony as more important than political expression, especially for their socially close connections. Discussants were aware of the consequences of expressing viewpoints on politically sensitive topics. They adopted several strategies to conceal their views, such as self-censoring, lurking, diverting to other topics, and pretending to agree. Discussants also used sophisticated privacy management tactics on social media to manipulate the visibility of their communicative behaviors in different settings. The present study advances the line of research on digitally mediated disconnectivity, and how cultural, political, and technical factors affect how young adults situate themselves in a politically polarized society. © 2022 Elsevier Ltd.

Research Area(s)

  • Cognitive dissonance, Communication privacy management theory, Digitally mediated disconnectivity, Expression avoidance strategies, Online focus group interviews, Political disagreement