With folks yapping all day on social media — Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and the rest — how can there be such a thing as a "spiral of silence" online?
Easy. Just make the experience of online political debate so disjointed, impersonal and unpleasant that people shut themselves up. Or they hide out in groupings where everyone says much the same thing. In that case, what they're doing is cheerleading, not debating.
The "spiral of silence" is a theory that people hesitate to say things they believe others in their group won't agree with. It predates the Internet age.
Let me add that the "spiral of silence" disproportionately affects the shy, the thoughtful and the female.
Social media were supposed to free these cooped-up opinions by offering new venues for speaking one's piece. But this high-minded promise of a vast online town hall for pensive argument has fallen flat, according to a new report by Pew Research Center and Rutgers University.