Facebook and the post-fact democracy: How emotions trump reason

Ervin Sarvan, Karl Johan Løkkegaard Bech-Jessen, Jonas Mark Ingvardsen, Astrid Brunø-Madsen & Magnus Fuglsang Søgaard

Student thesis: Basic Project

Abstract

This project investigates how the structures and trends on Facebook affect the basis on which public opinion is formed, and which consequences this has for democracy. The aim is to examine and discuss whether Facebook's influence is positive or negative for democracy. The research method is composed of a comparative case study based on qualitative analyses of how two specific Danish politicians from the same political party communicate on the social media platform Facebook, which we examine through the criteria for social transmission. The project is theoretically based on French sociologist Gabriel Tarde’s theory about imitation, opposition and invention. In the examination of how Facebook has affected democracy, the project also draws on German sociologist Jürgen Habermas’ theory on public sphere and deliberative democracy. The analysis shows that politicians who use emotions like fear, anger, indignation, hope and awe in their updates on Facebook are more likely to reach a higher degree of social transmission and therefore go viral. This trend can have a direct effect on the basis of public opinion. Even though Facebook has improved the opportunities for political participation by providing citizens with a platform for deliberation, the project concludes that Facebook has overwhelmingly negative consequences for democracy. This can be seen in the growing tendency of citizens choosing not to partake in political debate because of the harsh tone on Facebook. Furthermore, it can be concluded that the structures of Facebook create groups of people who share the same values and opinions. This results in one-sided debates, since people in these groups do not come across opposition in the form of contrasting opinions.

EducationsBasic - Bachelor Study Program in Social Science, (Bachelor Programme) Basic
LanguageDanish
Publication date19 Dec 2016
Number of pages69
SupervisorsJacob Dahl Rendtorff