Many urban liberals have experienced what it’s like to visit relatives in conservative rural areas and, in group settings, abstain from expressing any political opinions that don’t correlate with the views held by the group. It’s typically called the “spiral of science,” and the Pew Research Internet Project found that this trend extends to social media:
Overall, the findings indicate that in the Snowden case, social media did not provide new forums for those who might otherwise remain silent to express their opinions and debate issues. Further, if people thought their friends and followers in social media disagreed with them, they were less likely to say they would state their views on the Snowden-NSA story online and in other contexts, such as gatherings of friends, neighbors, or co-workers. This suggests a spiral of silence might spill over from online contexts to in-person contexts, though our data cannot definitively demonstrate this causation. It also might mean that the broad awareness social media users have of their networks might make them more hesitant to speak up because they are especially tuned into the opinions of those around them.