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Wednesday, July 13 • 10:46 - 12:15
Shut up and like it: the spiral of silence on Facebook.

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Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
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Contributor: Marilia Pereira, PPGCOM ESPM, Brazil


Besides all Web 2.0 facilities for sharing self-content and SMS gratifications for this practice, this study aims to discuss if Facebook users are stuck by self-censorship and silence. Many scholars argue how issues such as context collapse, privacy management, surveillance awareness and illiteracy could be related to self-information disclosures restrictions, bringing side effects to performances online. Combining a set of desk research and analysis of empirical studies on the topic, we could propose users fell less comfortable to talk about themselves and are more likely to perform their identity by consuming, liking and sharing third parties performances. In fact, a 21% decline in original personal sharing (from mid-2014 to mid-2015) was recently reported on Facebook[1]. Our contribution is to analyse why people decide to like and share the things they do through the Spiral of Silence theory and dynamics (NOELLE-NEUMANN, 2001). Relating public opinion to friends opinion and how Facebook make it visible, actors' choices could be defined not only by affinity or admiration, but also under the influence of these performances' audience measures. As described in the spiral of silence model, because some content seems to spread among their social network, actors could assume that they reflect the majority opinion. Thus, the fear of being isolated could motivate their endorsements and consumption. This hypothesis drives us to the majority illusion phenomena (LERMAN, YAN, WU, 2015) and how Facebook might transform visibility into silence.


Verify if the Spiral of Silence phenomenon can be observed on Facebook and how is it impacts on users self-censorship and self-presentation. 


As a work-in-progress paper, we do not allow conclusive results. However, based on the desk research carried out, we found out that:   

• 44% of Facebook users “like” content posted by their friends at least once a day, with 29% doing so several times per day. 31% comment on other people’s photos on a daily basis, with 15% doing so several times per day. 19% send private Facebook messages to their friends on a daily basis, with 10% sending these messages multiple times per day. 10% change or update their own status on Facebook on a daily basis, with 4% updating their status several times per day. Some 25% of Facebook users say that they never change or update their own Facebook status[2] (transcription from original text). 

• 71% of the 3.9 million users in this sample self-censored at least one post or comment over the course of 17 days, confirming that self-censorship is common. Posts are censored more than comments (33% vs. 13%). Also, we found that decisions to self-censor content strongly affected by a user’s perception of audience[3] (transcription from original text).

• 20% of Facebook users like pages because they see friends already did it[4]. 

Future Work: 

Apply a survey to observe: a) the effect of "opinion climate" over Facebook users likes and shares; b) the influence of friends' reputation over the consumption and interactions made online.

Conduct indeep interviews with some of the survey participants to deepen the discussion why people like and share what they do on Facebook.


LERMAN, K., YAN, X., WU, X. (2015). The Majority Illusion in Social Networks. USC Information Sciences Institute. http://arxiv.org/abs/1506.03022

NOELLE-NEUMANN, E. (2013). La espiral del silencio - Opinión pública: nuestra piel social. Barcelona: Editora Vozes.

[1] Bloomberg Technology (2016). Facebook wants you to post more about yourself. <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-07/facebook-said-to-face-decline-in-people-posting-personal-content?platform=hootsuite>. Acess on Access on 04/11/16. 

[2] Pew Research Center (2014). http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/02/03/6-new-facts-about-facebook/. Access on 09/28/15.

[3] DAS, Sauvik and KRAMER, Adam (2003). Self-Censorship on Facebook. Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (www.aaai.org). http://sauvik.me/system/papers/pdfs/000/000/004/original/self-censorship_on_facebook_cameraready.pdf?1369713003. Access on 09/28/15.

[4] Synapse.com (2013). Why consumers become brand fans. http://www.syncapse.com/why-consumers-become-brand-fans/#.Vg7UfHvDaOX. Access on 10/02/15.

Wednesday July 13, 2016 10:46 - 12:15 UTC
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01 Goldsmiths University, Building 2