This study examines how individuals’ opinion congruence with macro/micro-climates of opinion and others’ supportive online comments influence their willingness to speak out on social media. We conducted two experiments with 413 adults and found that people with macro-opinion congruence (i.e., societal majority) were more willing to speak out when perceiving supportive interactions from the majority of online commenters than no supportive interactions. Competence was a significant factor found to explain why people become emboldened to speak out under such conditions (i.e., macro-opinion congruence with majority online commenters’ supportive communication). However, counter to our original prediction, even if people perceive macro-opinion congruence, people with opinions incongruent with the majority online commenters are less willing to speak out when the minority online commenters (i.e., congruent with their own opinion) express supportive communication than no supportive communication. Although sense of community was found to be a significant mediating factor in explaining why people were more or less willing to speak out on social media in experiment 2, why supportive communication among minority online commenters diminished their willingness to speak out, rather than amplifying it, calls for further investigation. By incorporating factors like one's competence and sense of community, we identified the underlying mechanism of social empowerment while revisiting and expanding the spiral of silence theory in the context of social media interactions.
- Online comments
- Social media
- Spiral of silence
- Supportive communication
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering
- Computer Networks and Communications