Did Facebook depolarize America?

Based on selective exposure and reinforcing spirals model perspectives, we examined the reciprocal relationship between Facebook news use and polarization using national 3-wave panel data collected during the 2016 US Presidential Election. Over the course of the campaign, we found media use and attitudes remained relatively stable. Our results also showed that Facebook news use was related to a modest over-time spiral of depolarization. Furthermore, we found that people who use Facebook for news were more likely to view both pro- and counter-attitudinal news in each wave. Our results indicated that counter-attitudinal news exposure increased over time, which resulted in depolarization. We found no evidence of a parallel model, where pro-attitudinal exposure stemming from Facebook news use resulted in greater affective polarization.

That is from Beam, Hutchens, and Hmielowski.  I thank an anonymous correspondent for the pointer.


Consistent with this paper from last year: http://web.stanford.edu/~gentzkow/research/age-polar.pdf

I seem to remember MR covering this paper, but in the meantime here's Vox: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/4/12/15259438/social-media-political-polarization

Whenever I want unbiased information I go to Vox.

Whenever I want unbiased information I go to Fox.

I vote for that! ;)

Interestingly, the Vox article covers that.

"The latter piece makes particular sense if you think about the fact that older Americans make up the base of both the cable and talk radio audiences. More than a third of talk radio listeners are over age 65, and half of Fox News’s audience is over age 68. As bad as getting your news from Facebook can be, it’s often far better than relying on Fox News or Rush Limbaugh."

"As bad as getting your news from Facebook can be, it’s often far better than relying on Fox News or Rush Limbaugh.”

That sure does sound like Vox. You posting that to support Lanigram's comment?

Maybe there's a trend here. Fox, Vox, etc.

You look at the hole and curse me. You think I should’ve read better, known the small break before the hole, which you could have never known. I don’t mind my error because it was not a mistake. You are strong and tired and full and hungry. You pop your ears. You don’t understand the difference. You slide your molars. You cross your lips with your tongue. You look at Dave.

Cue the inevitable network that angers both 'houses': Pox

Then the investing one: Stox

Then the sports one: Jox

The rest are left as an exercise for the reader.

Welp, as much as I wanted to think there was a *structural* problem with current generation social media, if more than one study is lining up this way, I'll have to believe it

Maybe this link supports structural problems, but at YouTube


And yet another sign of structural problems.


'We found no evidence of a parallel model, where pro-attitudinal exposure stemming from Facebook news use resulted in greater affective polarization.'

This, however, was documented by the Senate Intelligence Committee - 'Last year, two Russian Facebook pages organized dueling rallies in front of the Islamic Da’wah Center of Houston, according to information released by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.

Heart of Texas, a Russian-controlled Facebook group that promoted Texas secession, leaned into an image of the state as a land of guns and barbecue and amassed hundreds of thousands of followers. One of their ads on Facebook announced a noon rally on May 21, 2016 to “Stop Islamification of Texas.”

A separate Russian-sponsored group, United Muslims of America, advertised a “Save Islamic Knowledge” rally for the same place and time.

On that day, protesters organized by the two groups showed up on Travis Street in downtown Houston, a scene that appeared on its face to be a protest and a counterprotest. Interactions between the two groups eventually escalated into confrontation and verbal attacks.

Burr, the committee's chairman, unveiled the ads at a hearing Wednesday morning and said Russians managed to pit Texans against each other for the bargain price of $200.

"You commented yesterday that your company's goal is bringing people together. In this case, people were brought together to foment conflict, and Facebook enabled that event to happen," Burr said to Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch.

"I would say that Facebook has failed their goal," Burr added. "From a computer in St. Petersburg, Russia, these operators can create and promote events anywhere in the United States in attempt to tear apart our society."

Stretch told the Senate Intelligence Committee that ads such as these were most likely directed at different audiences.' https://www.texastribune.org/2017/11/01/russian-facebook-page-organized-protest-texas-different-russian-page-l/

Interesting how Facebook's defense is that different audiences were targetted, not how those audiences were brought together in the streets.

So basically trolling as psyops. Someone needs to develop a tool to instantly score social media users on their likelihood of being fake. Like fakespot, but for user accounts.

It's not social media, but this site's commentariate probably wouldn't fare too well...

This sites commentariate are a bunch of cucks.

What do you mean by a fake account? One run by someone purporting to be someone/something else? If your name isn't actually Hazel Meade then I'm afraid you qualify. As does everyone on Reddit.

Someone who doesn't fully disclose national and corporate ties? I'm afraid all of the above still apply.

Someone who hopes to sway others to their way of thinking through manipulation or scare tactics? Literally all of Twitter.

Someone who lies on social media? That's still almost the entire internet.

Someone who does all of the above? That's still enough people that simply assuming all people on the internet are "fake" is a lot easier. In fact, not blindly trusting someone on social media might not be a bad idea.

Someone who claims to be a Texan standing up for Texas, but is in fact a Russian stirring up social conflict, would probably qualify as a fake.

Whether the racist or anti-racist Texans who showed up use pseudonyms online is a different question ...

If you allow people to communicate with each other, they might do terrible things. So anyone who facilitates communication is bad.


'So anyone who facilitates communication is bad.'

Of course not. It is the people manipulating communications for their own ends that is a problem. Fraud, for example, is something that facilitators of communications like the post office or telephone company or Ebay are very aware of, and take measures to both prevent and more importantly, to actively track down and allow the legal process to punish those doing the defrauding.

Nonetheless, as noted by Hazel Meade, there are various terms which describe various activities, and being willfully blind simply allows those attempting to manipulate communication facilitators to their advantage is generally not a way to fix the problem. As both the post office and telecommunications industry has been doing for generations.

My prediction for 2018 still stands - if the Russians feel it is in their interest to create a Democratic majority in the House so as to lead to impeachment proceedings which further weaken the U.S. (especially its international standing regarding opposing Russian interests), we will soon be reading thousands of Republican internal e-mails on wikileaks.

Divide and conquer ...

Why do social scientists insist on using language that is incomprehensible? Is it so they can hide behind it? To his credit, Cowen is a model of clarity compared to most of his peers, likely because he is writing to a larger audience of non-social scientists. As to this specific paper, what on earth are the authors saying? "Furthermore, we found that people who use Facebook for news were more likely to view both pro- and counter-attitudinal news in each wave. Our results indicated that counter-attitudinal news exposure increased over time, which resulted in depolarization. We found no evidence of a parallel model, where pro-attitudinal exposure stemming from Facebook news use resulted in greater affective polarization." Attitudinal? I'm attitudinal: my attitude is that what these authors wrote is gibberish. Strunk and White would give them an F.

Obfuscation is a time-honored method of faking erudition.

Or: if you can't counter 'em with logic, baffle 'em with BS.

This entire blog has all these economics posts just to obfuscate the fact that it really is a comment section for cuckolds.

To fake Art Deco at 4:31PM. Get an emotional support animal. Call your doctor about your medications and take his advice.

After you have done that, you will have the right to read the rest of this comment. (you may skim it now, of course, but don't try and really read it until after the phone call to your doctor).

Ok, congratulations on getting your meds straight. Are you not now ashamed that you were so focused on your dream that others were "cuckolded", to use your favorite word? Are you not completely ashamed?
Well, don't be. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.

Also, it was kind of stupid of you to think that the average commenter on any web site has a wife that anybody would want to sleep with. That is why people ignored your cuckold comment. The ones with the unattractive wives did not care because they knew they could easily beat up the inconsequential losers who would like to sleep with their wives. The ones with attractive wives understood that you are mentally ill. The gay ones just did not get why you felt the need to vandalize with dirty words a website that you never spent a moment making better.

I care about your eternal soul, and I guess that, at some point, you and me were fellow soldiers: and I am nothing if not loyal to those who fought with me in long-gone wars (if you are a Gulf War Vet, that would be you) or even those who served with those who fought with me (that would be pretty much all American enlisted personnel who served from 1948 to today). And so I implore you: stop screaming for attention, my young friend: get your meds straight, for God's sake, and call a good doctor at the local VA hospital, tell them to read this thread (verb sap.), and stop incontinently posting here (or keep on posting, if that helps, at least for a little while - but do not overdo it - you may wind up in a bad place where one's soul has forgotten that change for the better is possible): the good people who comment here are patient with those like you, and you will not likely get many criticisms - but I have criticized, Sarge, because I care.

And I absolutely guarantee you that there is not a chance in billions - not one chance at all - that you will cuckold me. Why? Because the truth is great, and will prevail.

Good luck, my poor young friend! God is on my side, and may God be on your side too: my guardian angel will pray for you as well.

Tyler - feel free to delete this message at any time. The person who needs to read it has already read it, I feel certain about that.

I love Strunk and White - it's a bonus their book is skinny, unlike academic-speech.

What idiot gets their "news" from Facebook. I guess half the population is below average in intelligence.

Forgot the +1.

No kidding. I think Tyler has posted previously on the use of jargon.

To raise one's status at the expense of those who are not part of the cool group. The turgid obfuscation of social science papers is the modern successor to Catholic theological doctrines.

Can you really not understand it, or do you just want to complain?

"Why do social scientists insist on using language that is incomprehensible?"

Almost as bad as ... lawyers.

I'm only 28, so I guess I haven't seen much of the world in person, but I cannot imagine how the US could be more polarized than it is now.

Read about the '60s, both 1860s and 1960s.

+1, both periods of wars, draft riots, political assassinations and interracial strife.

Nuh uh! I was told this election was the most important election ever. And they ones before that was the second most.

It takes someone age 26 to bring us back to reality. Polarization in the 1960s, now that was polarization. Black people couldn't go to school where white people went to school, where white people ate, where white people traveled, where white people spent the night, and so on; anybody to the left of Nixon was a communist; the divide between the young and old a chasm (watch The Graduate); women had tow career choices, marriage and babies or teaching; and the differences between those who supported the Vietnam War and those who opposed the war was worth fighting over, and did. I was in college during the war, and my polarization over the very real possibility of being drafted and shipped off the the rice paddies defined me and my generation. Today, we have a goofball in the White House, and on campus the faculty in gender/race/culture/ethnic studies demand respect, but otherwise we are a nation mostly in agreement. Sure, today we are far more divided by wealth and income, but nothing like the divide in the 1960s.

The 1960's didn't seem very even though. Like, it's hard to have a conflict when one side is 10% of the population and 2% of the wealth. It's just a slightly disorderly oppression. But now, we seem pretty close to evenly split between people who want nothing more than to see Trump supporters genocided and people who want the same for Obama supporters.

It's not ethnic cleansing bad, but for someone somewhat older, it is kinda bad.

We've never really had this kind of experiment, where the President boinks porn stars and "evangelicals" still say "God's purpose."

I guess the President is cucking all of you but that's hardly new.

I guess the really odd thing is the low degree of separation between this troll's comments and the President's behavior.

Don't be so sore about being a cuckold.

The President’s behavior is fine, it's his trolling that upsets the weak minded.

Is Trump your hero, TMC?

The really amazing thing is that Allan Bloom, etc, thought that this total abandonment of moral values would come from the left, and that conservatism would stand against.

I prefer the more explicit hypocrisy anyway.

It's because he's standing up to the dominant subculture (coastal, "educated", etc.) which for decades has been pissing all over the subculture from which most of the 'evangelicals' come from. Friends of mine in [blue university in blue city] spew incredible invective against those who voted Trump (bigots! hypocrites! ignorant! stupid! illiterate! scum!) and in the same breath wonder, "why are these people voting against their interests (e.g. against us Democrats)?" (their inevitable conclusion: because they're stupid, or ignorant, or conned by Fox News) -- and of course, the real answer is, "it's not against their interests, they're voting for Trump because you people hate them and they're smart enough to see it".

Call it hypocrisy on the part of 'evangelicals' if you like; but as hypocrisy goes it's pretty darn sensible. Similarly, in the 1990s the feminists all loved Bill Clinton despite...

[PS When I say 'dominant subculture', think dominant in terms of media presence - both news media and entertainment media e.g. Hollywood - and dominant in terms of presence within the technocratic government bureaucracies.]

I kinda see that, but what does it really mean that these disgruntled rural workers chose this golden toilet NY lout to be their vehicle?

And that is really the crux now, in the run-up to 2020. Is this man truly your paragon, or can you find someone who is?

Because Democrats showed how much they feared/hated Trump in the primaries. I think Republicans just reacted to this fear, and thought it was fucking awesome to see their enemies so miserable.

Oh, I'm sure that is a big factor. The only problem is that it wasn't just liberals and it wasn't even all political. A lot of people did not "reality TV in the Whitehouse" but that's very much what we got.

I'm going off the working assumption that the median thought here was, "I don't give a fuck about America anymore. We've already lost. I just want these liberals who're letting trannies whip their dicks out in front of my daughter to pay with tears."

Facebook didn't depolarize or polarize me. I simply unfriended people who I realized were mean and intolerant. I have friends who are all across the political spectrum. But when I saw people saying things like all Trump voters are e.g., bigots and racists (and the equivalent coming from the right) I realized they were not the type of people I wanted as friends, virtual or otherwise.

*looks around*

Nope, still polarized.

Doesn't fit the narrative we hear every day.

Isn't Facebook too mainstream for edgy Leftists and Rightists anyway? I wouldn't expect much polarization to occur, and would expect those who do become polarized to leave Facebook for hipper places that better stroke their egos.

Most of my Facebook friends got upset over just about any attempt at provoking thought, much less politics. Back to pictures of kids.

Still polarized. 80% of posts from US media outlets are either monkeys flinging poo or critics describing the aim, viscosity or odor. No thank you. No US media for me.

the findings do seem a bit at odds with https://www.sciencenews.org/article/twitter-fake-news-truth

true, different data sets and the dominance of fiction over fact doesn't necessarily mean it's not balances (nets to 0 as it were) but I would think that would be a special case and unusual.

Perhaps there's a behavioral explanation of the dominance of false over truth related to extent of distribution.

(But still need to go back and get the ScienceNew story on how statistics, or actually it's misuse and misunderstandings about, are destroying science: P is not what you think and is internally inconsistent.)

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