A change in the climate: Online social capital and the spiral of silence

  • Kim Sheehan University of Oregon
Keywords: Social capital, spiral of silence,


This study explores the connection between online social capital and the Spiral of Silence. Online social capital is an individual’s network of social connections, a network that enables and encourages social cooperation. The Spiral of Silence theory suggests that an opinion can become dominant if those who perceive their opinion to be in the minority do not speak up because society threatens them with isolation. A study of 550 individuals explored their willingness to speak up on an issue, and assessed whether they thought they held a majority of a minority opinion. This study compared both their bonding social capital (via homogeneous networks) and bridging social capital (via heterogeneous networks) to their willingness to speak up and their perceptions of whether others held their opinions. Regression analyses shows that bridging social capital is a key influencer in people’s willingness to speak up in social media and other online venues.

How to Cite
Sheehan, K. (2015). A change in the climate: Online social capital and the spiral of silence. First Monday, 20(5). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v20i5.5414