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October 27, 2016

Topic: Research

Tune-in, tune-out patterns of political engagement

Mats Ekström and Adam Shehata’s study of social media queries whether low thresholds encourage tune-in, tune-out patterns of political engagement.

Ekström and Shehata investigate how social interaction on social media effects online political engagement.  Featured recently in New Media & Society, Ekström and Shehata’s article ‘Social media, porous boundaries, and the development of online political engagement among young citizens’ is an empirical analysis of the level and development of political engagement on social media. The authors use a five-wave panel study of the digital life of Swedish adolescents to provide insights on political information, production, interaction and collective action in the group.

Popular discourse represents social media as a site for personal and political self-expression, where social media platforms enable individual, personal, and social interactions. Research on digital political participation frequently explores themes such as ‘porous boundaries’ and ‘low thresholds’ between political and nonpolitical interactions on social media platforms, arguing that the less distinct lines between these activities lower thresholds into political engagement. Research attributes this to the shifting boundaries between political and non-political engagement by members in their posts, comments, and conversations.    

Ekström and Shehata find that social interactions through these channels concur with engagement in political information and interaction. The study offers limited support to the notion that social media encourages tune-in, tune-out patterns of political engagement. In addition, it argues that the impact of social interaction on online political participation goes beyond motivation factors and political socialization for young citizens.    

Mats Ekström is Professor in Media and Communication  and Director of Studies, Doctoral program, at the University of Gothenburg. Adam Shehata is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Gothenberg.  

Photo: geralt/Pixabay/cc