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Saturday, September 21 • 9:33am - 10:08am
The Political Outcomes of Unfriending: Social Network Curation, Network Agreeability, and Political Participation

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Research has noted a link between social media use and political participation. Scholars have also identified a need to explain this link. The present study is a theoretical and empirical probe into the political outcomes of unfriending people on social media. Drawing on privacy management theory and the social identity perspective, it explores the relationship between social network curation (blocking or unfriending others on social media for political reasons), perceived social network agreeability (how often people agree with the political opinions or political content of friends on social media), and forms of political participation. Using data from a survey of US adults (N=2,018) and a structural equation modelling approach, study results indicate a relational path from social network curation, through expressive participation (e.g. discussing politics and posting about politics on social media), to more demonstrative forms of participation (e.g. donating money and volunteering time). The study contributes to our understanding of the link between social media use and political outcomes by focusing on a unique explanatory mechanism. Policy implications pertain to the role that social media use plays in fostering political involvement. Specifically, if cutting disagreeable friends out of one’s social network is associated with political participation, this raises normative concerns regarding engagement which is underpinned by political polarization and intolerance.


Derrick Cogburn

American University


Craig Robertson

Michigan State University

Laleah Fernandez

Michigan State University
avatar for Ruth Shillair, Ph.D.

Ruth Shillair, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Director of Master's Program, Department of Media & Information Studies, Michigan State University
Interests include: improving protections for individuals by improving cybersecurity, reducing digital divides, making cybersecurity/privacy usable.

Saturday September 21, 2019 9:33am - 10:08am PDT
Y403 WCL, 4300 Nebraska Ave, Washington DC