Political implications of disconnection on social media : A study of politically motivated unfriending

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationNew Media and Society
Online published11 Mar 2021
Publication statusOnline published - 11 Mar 2021

Abstract

This study examines the political implications of social media through the lens of digital disconnectivity. Specifically, it focuses on politically motivated unfriending and examines its influence on individuals’ political engagement, namely political expression and information consumption on social media. Furthermore, considering the importance of minority–majority relations for understanding disconnection phenomena, we investigate whether the impact of unfriending is more pronounced among opinion minorities than majorities. Using a two-wave panel survey conducted in the post-Umbrella Movement Hong Kong, we find that politically motivated unfriending predicts an increased level of political expression, but that it is only significant among people who perceive themselves as holding minority opinions. At the same time, we find no relationship between unfriending and information consumption on social media. Based on the findings, we discuss the implications of unfriending for building digital “safe spaces” and its distinct role in promoting political engagement in times of political conflicts.

Research Area(s)

  • Opinion minorities, panel survey, political engagement, social media, unfriending