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The Internet might be a useful tool for activists and organizers, in episodes from the Arab Spring to the Ice Bucket Challenge. But over all, it has diminished rather than enhanced political participation, according to new data.

从“阿拉伯之春”到“冰桶挑战”,互联网在许多事件中可能都是活动人士和组织者的有效工具。但最新数据显示,从总体上看,互联网却削弱而不是提高了人们的政治参与度。

Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, has the effect of tamping down diversity of opinion and stifling debate about public affairs. It makes people less likely to voice opinions, particularly when they think their views differ from those of their friends, according to a report published Tuesday by researchers at Pew Research Center and Rutgers University.

Twitter和Facebook等社交媒体实际上压制了观点的多样性,而且抑制了人们对公共事务的讨论。皮尤研究中心(Pew Research Center)和罗格斯大学(Rutgers University)的研究人员周二发表的报告称,社交媒体降低了人们表达意见的可能性,尤其是当他们认为自己的看法与朋友不同的时候。

The researchers also found that those who use social media regularly are more reluctant to express dissenting views in the offline world.

研究人员还发现,与其他人相比,经常使用社交媒体的人在线下的世界里,更加不愿意表达不同观点。

社交媒体如何让人们变成“沉默者”.jpg

The Internet, it seems, is contributing to the polarization of America, as people surround themselves with people who think like them and hesitate to say anything different. Internet companies magnify the effect, by tweaking their algorithms to show us more content from people who are similar to us.

这样看来,随着人们让自己周围只剩下与自己看法相似,而且不愿意提出不同的看法的人,互联网正在加剧美国民众观点的分化。互联网公司通过调整算法,向我们展示了更多与我们相似的人发布的内容,于是放大了这一效应。

"People who use social media are finding new ways to engage politically, but there's a big difference between political participation and deliberation," said Keith N. Hampton, an associate professor of communication at Rutgers and an author of the study. "People are less likely to express opinions and to be exposed to the other side, and that's exposure we'd like to see in a democracy."

“使用社交媒体的人,发现了参与政治的新方式,但政治参与和政治讨论是有很大区别的,”本文的作者之一、罗格斯大学传播学副教授基思·N·汉普顿(Keith N. Hampton)说,“人们不那么倾向于表达看法了,也不愿意与不同立场的人接触。我们在民主制度中,是期望见到这种接触的。”

The researchers set out to investigate the effect of the Internet on the so-called spiral of silence, a theory that people are less likely to express their views if they believe they differ from those of their friends, family and colleagues. The Internet, many people thought, would do away with that notion because it connects more heterogeneous people and gives even minority voices a bullhorn.

研究人员打算探索互联网对所谓的“沉默的螺旋”的影响。该理论认为,当人们认为自己的观点与朋友、家人或同事不同时,表达自己看法的意愿就会降低。许多人认为,互联网会让这个概念彻底消失,因为它让更加相异的人们联系在一起,甚至还能传播少数群体的声音。

Instead, the researchers found, the Internet reflects the offline world, where people have always gravitated toward like-minded friends and shied away from expressing divergent opinions. (There is a reason for the old rule to avoid religion or politics at the dinner table.)

然而研究人员发现,互联网就是线下世界的反映。在线下世界,人们就总是会被想法相同的朋友吸引,远离表达不同意见的人。(所以才有在餐桌上避谈宗教或政治的老规矩。)

And in some ways, the Internet has deepened that divide. It makes it easy for people to read only news and opinions from people they agree with. In many cases, people don't even make that choice for themselves. Last week, Twitter said it would begin showing people tweets even from people they don't follow if enough other people they follow favorite them. On Monday, Facebook said it would hide stories with certain types of headlines in the news feed. Meanwhile, harassment from online bullies who attack people who express opinions has become a vexing problem for social media sites and their users.

而互联网以某些方式加深了这种分化。它让人们很容易就可以只阅读自己认同的人发布的消息和观点。许多情况下,人们甚至无需自己做出这样的选择。Twitter上星期称,将开始向用户显示一些他们没有关注的人发布的消息,只要他们关注的用户中,有足够多的人收藏那条消息。周一,Facebook表示,将在用户的页面上隐藏标题属于某些类型的报道。与此同时,网上不良用户对表达观点的人进行骚扰,已经成了一个令社交网站和用户都深感头疼的问题。

Humans are acutely attuned to the approval of others, constantly reading cues to judge whether people agree with them, the researchers said. Active social media users get many more of these cues — like status updates, news stories people choose to share and photos of how they spend their days — and so they become less likely to speak up.

研究人员称,人类都强烈渴望得到他人的认可,不断地解读各种信号,判断人们是否认同自己。活跃的社交媒体用户能够获得更多的此类信号——比如状态更新、人们分享的消息,以及他们日常生活的照片——因此越来越不愿意表达自己的看法。

For the study, researchers asked people about the revelations of National Security Agency surveillance by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, a topic on which Americans were almost evenly divided.

为了完成这份报告,研究人员调查了一些人对泄密者爱德华·斯诺登(Edward Snowden)揭露美国国家安全局(National Security Agency,简称NSA)监控项目的看法,美国人对这个问题基本上存在两种观点,且持两种观点的人数相当。

Most people surveyed said they would be willing to discuss government surveillance at dinner with family or friends, at a community meeting or at work. The only two settings where most people said they would not discuss it were Facebook and Twitter. And people who use Facebook a few times a day were half as likely as others to say they would voice an opinion about it in a real-world conversation with friends.

大多数的被调查者称,他们愿意在餐桌上与家人和朋友讨论政府监控项目的问题,也愿意在社区聚会或工作场所这么做。多数人表示,他们唯独不愿在Facebook和Twitter上讨论这个话题。而每天多次登录Facebook的人,自称愿意在现实里与朋友的交谈中就此事发表意见的概率,与其他人相比会低一半。

Yet if Facebook users thought their Facebook friends agreed with their position on the issue, they were 1.9 times more likely to join a discussion there. And people with fervent views, either in favor of or against government spying, were 2.4 times more likely to say they would join a conversation about it on Facebook. Interestingly, those with less education were more likely to speak up on Facebook, while those with more education were more likely to be silent on Facebook yet express their opinion in a group of family or friends.

然而,如果Facebook用户认为,自己在该网站上的好友同意自己的立场,他们在Facebook上参与讨论的可能性就会增加1.9倍。无论是支持还是反对政府监控项目的人,如果态度十分强烈,愿意参与Facebook讨论的可能性就会增加2.4倍。有趣的是,受教育程度较低的人更有可能在Facebook上畅所欲言,而受教育程度较高的人,则更倾向于在Facebook上保持沉默,同时在家人或朋友中表达自己的观点。

The study also found that for all the discussion of social media becoming the place where people find and discuss news, most people said they got information about the N.S.A. revelations from TV and radio, while Facebook and Twitter were the least likely to be news sources.

研究还发现,尽管很多人都说社交媒体正在成为发现和讨论新闻事件的平台,但多数人表示,他们是通过电视和广播得知了NSA泄密的消息,而Facebook和Twitter成为消息来源的可能性最小。

These findings are limited because the researchers studied a single news event. But consider another recent controversial public affairs story that people discussed online — the protests in Ferguson, Mo. Of the posts you read on Twitter and Facebook from people you know, how many were in line with your point of view and how many were divergent, and how likely were you to speak up?

这些发现是具有局限性的,因为研究人员只研究了一个新闻事件。但我们可以想想人们最近在网上讨论的另一桩争议性公共事件——密苏里州弗格森的抗议活动。在你读到的Twitter和Facebook上的帖子中,有多少观点与你一致,有多少不同观点,你又有多大可能在上面发表看法?

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