Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
belief polarization, political engagement, echo chambers, data collection, mini publics, group polarization, white supremacy, normalization, anonymity, social media
Delaney, Kelsey. The Plight of Social Media: An Analysis of the Effects Social Media has on Political Discourse. Department of Political Science, March 2021.
Advisor: Çıdam, Çiğdem
This thesis demonstrates how social media has affected political discourse. It builds on an analysis of epistemic bubbles and echo chambers to show how social media contributes to the formation of insulated groups and perpetuates belief polarization. Two case studies are used to display how social media has been weaponized by political actors through the manipulation of algorithms, bot accounts, anonymity, normalization, and trend-setting tactics. The first case study focuses on how private companies can profit from the unauthorized collection of social media users’ personal data. This allows them to manipulate these data points to target each user with political propaganda to achieve a political goal. The second case study shows how white supremacist groups have weaponized social media to disseminate their extremist ideology. Social media fosters an environment where users can be politically polarized through the creation and perpetuation of echo chambers. To combat the harms social media has caused, the electorate should look towards focusing on political epistemology and group discourse through engaging in minipublics. Diverse, face-to-face, group discussions about politics are optimal for breaking out of epistemic bubbles and echo chambers. Ultimately, valuing where knowledge comes from along with truth preservation will enhance the public sphere and democracy.
Delaney, Kelsey, "The Plight of Social Media: An Analysis of the Effects Social Media has on Political Discourse" (2021). Honors Theses. 2454.