Over the last few years, the political information environment has been significantly transformed. The greatest change is related to the rise of social media. Social media is increasingly pervading our everyday life, which is further strengthened by the development of mobile technologies enabling constant presence. The purpose of this study is to contribute to the understanding of the outcomes of this changing information environment by uncovering the distinct effects Facebook has on young people’s political behavior compared to more traditional, professional-operated media platforms. It examines the role and impact of Facebook as a central political information source within today’s high-choice information environment among university students.
The results indicate that only a politically interested minority of university students post or share political content on Facebook. However the results do offer indirect evidence of the presence of social influences.
The study examines the role and impact of Facebook as a central political information source within today’s high-choice information environment among university students. It assumes that the growing role of Facebook as a political information source means the return of the two-step flow of information model: political views and experiences of the less interested majority are largely shaped by the communication of the fewer politically interested peers. Based on a survey among university students in Hungary, the study confirms that Facebook is the primary political information source for university students. The results indicate that only a politically interested minority of university students post or share political content on Facebook. However, posting is shaped by dissatisfaction with the way democracy functions, and accordingly, obtaining regular information about politics through Facebook leads to more negative perceptions about the way democracy works. Based on these findings, it may be assumed that the negative evaluation of democracy by students who are informed about politics through Facebook results from the fact that on this platform information and opinions are mostly provided by their discontented peers. An important contribution of this study is that social influences resulting from using Facebook are not investigated in themselves, but are embedded into the modern information environment where several information sources are used simultaneously.
Influenced by Peers: Facebook as an Information Source for Young People
Social Media + Society