Publication details

Online Discussions, Incivility and Selective Avoidance on Social Networking Sites as Pathways to Polarization in Czechia

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Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Description In our research, we are generally interested in the role of the preferred news reception practices, of the character of (online) discussions and interactions on polarization. We examine this relationship by testing two general assumptions linking the use of the social networking sites (SNSs) with polarization through the selective exposure to pro/counter-attitudinal information. Firstly, we assume that SNSs create a diverse information environment where citizens may interact with those who hold dissimilar views. Such political exchange and cross-cutting exposure can lead to a rise of polarization, because visibility of opposite views can increase perceived social distance. Secondly, although there is little doubt that SNSs provide opportunities for citizens to engage in cross-cutting discussions, they also allow them to re-establish more homogeneous information environments via practices of selective avoidance. Such information environments, where citizens are not exposed to any attitudinally incongruent information, can also magnify distance among groups. We test a set of hypotheses on Czech survey data (N=3763) collected in 2020. The preliminary results indicate that there is no strong and unambiguous pattern regarding the general use of SNSs and polarization in Czechia. On the other hand, we found a weak connection between the practices of social filtering of news, homogenous information environment and politically motivated unfriending, experiencing incivility and polarization. It indicates that there is a weak link between the SNSs practises related to a more homogenous environment and polarization, which is in line with previous findings. At the same time, the analysis reveals a weak connection between the exposure to counter-attitudinal information and polarization (through incivility) - and it thus generally suggests rather an ambiguous (and poor) relationship between the different ways of SNSs use and polarization.
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