Why so quiet? Exploring inhibition in digital public spaces

Hilde Sakariassen, Irene Costera Meijer
2021 European Journal of Communication  
Social network sites have been considered as important arenas for public debate, but as a large proportion of users do not actively participate, there is a need to further our understanding of a phenomenon as hidden, unnoticed and invisible as non-participation. We argue that inhibition is a valuable socio-psychological lens to study non-participation, usefully extending the conceptual framework of political communication regarding non-participation, and offering a more precise way of
more » ... the intent behind this apparent passivity. Using representative survey data collected in Norway in 2017 ( N = 2064), we first sensitise the multi-layered concept of inhibition through combining different dominant approaches: the spiral-of-silence theory, the harsh debate climate, political efficacy, and specific properties of social network sites related to identity and impression management. Second, we show that inhibition functions as an in-between concept balancing participation and non-participation in social network sites. Through factor analysis principal component factor (PCF), we integrate established theories that allow us to define overarching dimensions of inhibition, demonstrating that it is a complex phenomenon not easily understood through one specific theoretical perspective.
doi:10.1177/02673231211017346 fatcat:sqdjynpz4fgqtgcwiqsntht3li