Fall 2022 Colloquium Series: Yotam Shmargad Sept 23rd, 2022
The UA School of Sociology is holding a Colloquium Series Talk next Friday, September 23, 2022. The speaker will be Yotam Shmargad, Associate Professor, School of Government and Public Policy, at University of Arizona. His talk is entitled "Social Norms and Discussion Dynamics in Online News Comments and on Twitter and Reddit.”
The Sociology Colloquium will be held in Social Science 415 from 12:00-1:15PM.
Zoom link: https://arizona.zoom.us/j/86758203501
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Online discussions are performed under the gaze of fellow users. To increase engagement, platforms often let users evaluate the comments made by others through rating systems, such as Likes or Down/Up votes. Understanding how such ratings shape, and are shaped by, features of the underlying discussion is important for our understanding of online behavior. In two studies, I focus on increasingly concerning aspects of online discussions: incivility and toxic language use. In the first study, I draw on the theory of normative social behavior (TNSB) to analyze over 6,000 online news comments. I find that repeated incivility by the same person is more likely when their initial incivility was affirmed by both descriptive norms (incivility in nearby comments) and injunctive norms (Up votes). In a second study, I apply this empirical framework to discussions on Twitter and Reddit surrounding the January 6th capitol riots. I find evidence that TNSB drives toxic commenting on Twitter, but less so on Reddit. Twitter users thus appear to be more reactive than Reddit users, which may be the reason why discussions on Twitter are more likely to feature cascading of toxic comments. I suggest several mechanisms that might explain why social norms are more influential on Twitter than on Reddit.