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The Social Network: How Friends' Online Behavior and Belongingness Needs Influence Political Activity

Journal article
Authors H. Back
Emma Aurora Renström
D. Siven
Published in Policy and Internet
Pages 24
ISSN 1944-2866
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 24
Language en
Keywords social media, political activity, social influence, belongingness needs, experiments, Facebook, need to belong, rejection sensitivity, media affordances, collective action, voter, turnout, participation, silence, belong, willingness, engagement, emotions, Communication, Government & Law
Subject categories Psychology


Are people more likely to become more politically active through social media when they observe that their friends are active? Previous research has shown that an individual's likelihood of engaging politically is influenced by observations of how friends act through social media, but relatively little is known about how such social influence through social media interacts with personality features. We argue that individuals with high belongingness needs will engage in political activity if they believe that this is expected from the social groups they belong to. To evaluate this hypothesis, a survey experiment was designed (n = 289) in Qualtrics. We had two experimental conditions (friends or extended network) in which we informed participants that the most shared or "liked" online material among their friends or extended network on Facebook was a specific petition. In a control condition, they were informed that they were shown a random petition. To increase the credibility of the manipulation, we asked participants to log into a fictive app that supposedly downloaded their Facebook data. We show that individuals are more likely to engage politically if they observe that their friends have been politically active on Facebook, but only if they have high belongingness needs.

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