The social acceptability of politics on social media

My thesis focused on the social acceptability of talking about politics on social media. I was interested in how young people determine what is “okay” to post on social media in terms of politics, and how they come to understand what is acceptable.

To that end, I ran a series of online focus groups with young New Zealanders (16–24), and I finished writing up my results and handed it in early March 2015.

You can find an electronic copy of the thesis on Victoria’s research archive.

Here’s the abstract:

This thesis explores the extent to which talking about politics on Facebook and Twitter is acceptable among young New Zealanders. To investigate the social norms of political discussion on social media, this research has utilised synchronous online focus groups with 27 young New Zealanders aged 16–24.

Participants were positive about the presence of politics on Facebook and Twitter, viewing the platforms as a good way of learning more about politics, although they held quite strong views about the way in which people expressed political views. Through utilising the features of social media platforms, participants had a number of ways of dealing with political material on social media they did not agree with or found offensive. Participants also said they sometimes complained about other people’s online political behaviour, primarily offline to people who were not involved in the political conversation.

In investigating both Facebook and Twitter, this research has attempted to tease out differences between the norms of political talk on social media generally, versus the norms specific to each platform. Twitter was seen by participants as a more appropriate place for politics than Facebook, mostly because people’s audiences on the respective platforms were very different.

This research has contributed towards a better understanding of an area which has not been well studied, especially outside of North America and Europe. It will be of interest to groups who want to engage young people on social media regarding political issues.

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