Political Conversations on Facebook: An Exploration of Practices
Young, Jennifer Marie
Americans spend more time on Facebook than any other site, according to Nielsen. As people play out more aspects of their lives on the site, it makes sense that their political identities and actions would also find a home there. While many studies have focused on the effects of Facebook use on political engagement, there have been very few on political conversations on Facebook internally to users' friendship networks. Using the framework of boyd's networked publics, this study takes on these conversations as its main focus, inquiring into the practices of political conversation on Facebook. Three aspects of political conversations are of particular concern to this study. Who people talk to: since most connections formed using social media are to people users already know, it is important to study political conversations in the context of those social networks. What they talk about: political conversations in the context of friendship networks are surrounded by the mundane conversations of everyday life - these are not sanitized, politics-only spaces. What technological affordances do they use: Facebook enables a site specific practice of political conversation given its technological affordances and infrastructure. The intersections between practices, context, and impact of the political conversations under study here become evident when grounded in the framework of the networked public. To analyze this phenomenon, I conducted an online social interaction and content analysis. Twenty-five Facebook users who commented on news articles on the Facebook pages of major news organizations were recruited as participants. After an entrance survey all content on their walls from January 4th 2012 to January 20th 2012 were coded for social interactions, and posts regarding political or social issues were coded for their technological affordances used and topicality. The data was analyzed for the level of interaction of posts, the spread of posts across topics, and whether using affordances such as including commentary on links increase the likelihood of conversation.
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