Does Social Media Use Really Make People Politically Polarized?

Direct and Indirect Effects of Social Media Use on Political Polarization

political polarization
social media
political engagement
media panel
media user
structural equation model
Telematics and Informatics. 35(1), 245-254.

Changjun Lee

Jieun Shin

Ahreum Hong*



To help inform the debate over whether social media is related to political polarization, we investigated the effects of social media use on changes in political view using panel data collected in South Korea (N=6411) between 2012 and 2016. We found that, although there were no direct effects of social media use, social media indirectly contributed to polarization through increased political engagement. Those who actively used social network sites were more likely to engage in political processes, which led them to develop more extreme political attitudes over time than those who did not use social network sites. In particular, we observed a clear trend toward a more liberal direction among both politically neutral users and moderately liberal users. In this study, we highlight the role of social media in activating political participation, which eventually pushes the users toward the ideological poles. The implications of these findings are discussed.