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A Social Safety Net? Rejection sensitivity and political opinion sharing among young people in social media

Journal article
Authors Emma Bäck
Hanna Bäck
Nils Gustafsson
Annika Fredén
Published in New Media and Society
Volume 21
Issue 2
Pages 298-316
ISSN 1461-4448
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 298-316
Language en
Keywords Opinion sharing, rejection sensitivity, social media, spiral of silence
Subject categories Political Science, Psychology, Media and Communications


One reason why people avoid using social media to express their opinions is to avert social sanctions as proposed by the spiral of silence theory. We here elaborate on individual-level sensitivity to social rejection in relation to voicing political opinions on social media sites. Given the uncertainty about sharing political views in social media, and the fact that social acceptance, or rejection, can be easily communicated through, for instance, likes, or a lack of likes, we argue that rejection sensitive individuals are less likely to share political information in social media. Combining an analysis of unique survey data on psychological characteristics and online political activity with focus group interviews with Swedish youth supports our argument, showing that rejection sensitive individuals are less inclined to engage politically in social media. The results extend on previous research by establishing the role of rejection sensitivity in political engagement in social media.

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