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Digital Media

Transformations in Human Communication

Edited By Paul Messaris and Lee Humphreys

The age of digital media has given rise to a new social world. It is a world in which the transmission of information from the few to the many is steadily being supplanted by the multi-directional flow of facts, lies, and ideas. It is a world in which hundreds of millions of people are voluntarily depositing large amounts of personal details in publicly accessible databases. It is a world in which interpersonal relationships are increasingly being conducted in the virtual sphere. Above all, this is a world that seems to be veering off in unpredictable ways from the trends of the immediate past. This book is a probing examination of that world, and of the changes that it has ushered into our lives.

In more than thirty essays by a wide range of scholars, this must-have second edition examines the impact of digital media in six areas – information, persuasion, community, gender and sexuality, surveillance and privacy, and cross-cultural communication – and offers an invaluable guide for students and scholars alike. With one exception, all essays are completely new or revised for this volume.

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Chapter 17: Young Citizens and the Social Life of Politics on Facebook (Kjerstin Thorson)


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Young Citizens and the Social Life of Politics on Facebook

Kjerstin Thorson

If you spent much time on social media during the 2012 presidential election season you might have seen an article—a “listicle,” really—from the viral media site Buzzfeed: “28 things that are worse than talking about politics on Facebook” (Stopera, 2012). Like the writers of most Buzzfeed listicles, the author of “28 things” artfully combined captions and photos in his list of 28 items, for maximum humorous effect. Among the 28 things that are offered as possibly worse than talking about politics on Facebook are hangnails, taking a selfie with your grandma, cannonballing into a pool of ice, and Justin Bieber fan art (the photos do the heavy lifting here). The list ends with the author changing his mind, seemingly having used his listicle-writing time to reflect upon just how unpleasant it is when Facebook interactions get political. “Oh wait, I’m wrong,” he concludes. “There is literally NOTHING worse than your Facebook friends talking about politics.”

Not much more than a year or so after the Buzzfeed article spread widely across social media, the entrepreneur and venture capitalist Sean Parker (most notable as the long-ago founder of the music sharing service Napster, and for his role in the growth of Facebook) began work on a new company called Brigade. In its very premise, Brigade makes a claim that is the exact opposite of the...

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