Communication Avoidance on Social Media

After attending all the lectures for BCM312, week two’s lecture still stood out to me the most. The concept of communication avoidance fascinated me from the aspects of silence being a form of communication like the one-minute silence we give on Anzac day to about how much less social we have become as a society over the last couple of years especially with covid and social media being one of the key ways stayed connected. It also made me reflect on myself and how I truly do prefer to text rather than call often especially if it’s a confrontational conversation. I feel that the significance of this topic is very relevant, and I wanted to find out more about it.

I decided to go with “To discover why do people avoid communication on social media?”. I think that this topic allows me to focus on ‘why’ people chose to avoid specific communication platforms and content. 

I found this topic quite personal as I deeply reflect on my own actions of communication as I use to think that I was talking to someone when I was texting them before watching this lecture. However, after digging deeper into my reflection I realised that, yes, I do prefer to call people for small talk like their day was going and what they have been up to, but when it comes to deep and important conversations or confrontation, I do prefer to text about these things.

I think the topic is significant to this generation as communication avoidance comes with a cost to today’s society as I believe that it is eroding our human nature of empathy towards one another. – meaning that we are slowly being unable to understand and relate to each other’s feelings. I also want to dive deeper and find out why people also choose to stay off specific social media platforms and choose to engage and not engage with specific posts in their feed. 

Background Research / Context:

In this modern world, we have become completely reliant on technology, especially the younger and my generation. Even though technology has connected us, people are born to be socially interactive communicators and there has never been a time in history where we are more communicative. However, though the invention of smartphones has changed the preference of communicating through texting. Statistics show that the number of texts sent has increased by more than 7,700% over the past decade and 68% of smartphone users said they text more likely than they talk on the phone. The main reasons why people prefer to text is categorised into three justifications; ease of use, ease to remember and less stress.

I found Mukerjee, S. and Yang, T’s paper the ‘Choosing to Avoid? A Conjoint Experimental Study to Understand Selective Exposure and Avoidance on Social Media’ outlines social media platforms provide multiple affordances, which convey several cues to guide users in making decisions about which news to consume. Traditional factorial designs have failed to experimentally study the effects of multiple, simultaneous cues operating on social media. As a result, there is little consensus in the literature about their exact effects on news choice. In this study, we use a conjoint experimental design to examine how source outlet cues, message cues, and social endorsement cues shape news selectivity on Facebook. We find that people significantly avoid news items without-party outlet and message cues. We also find that people select news based only on in-party messages cues, but this effect is smaller than the avoidance of out-party cues. Only strong partisans’ demon- strate a preference for news items with in-party source and message cues. Finally, we find no evidence that social endorsement affects people’s news selection behaviour.

In Zhu, Q., Skoric, M. and Shen, F’s paper the “I Shield Myself From Thee: Selective Avoidance on Social Media During Political Protests” This study examines the phenomenon of politically motivated selective avoidance on Facebook in the context of the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement protests in 2014. They conceptualize selective avoidance as individual choices that users make to shield themselves from undesirable dissonant views by removing unwanted information and breaking social ties that transmit such information.

In HICHANG CHO, PENGXIANG LI and ZHANG HAO GOH’s paper the “Privacy Risks, Emotions, and Social Media: A Coping Model of Online Privacy” This study proposes a novel coping model of privacy that extends prior privacy work in two important ways: first, the reconceptualization of privacy coping reflecting both problems- and emotion-focused strategies, and second, the incorporation of discrete emotions as a driver of privacy coping. 

However, the more I researched the more I discovered a gap in the research available and struggled to find research done on why people avoid specific social media platforms and choice to either interact or avoid communication on their chosen social media, this is where I have decided to focus my research.


HICHANG CHO, PENGXIANG LI and ZHANG HAO GOH (2020) ‘Privacy Risks, Emotions, and Social Media: A Coping Model of Online Privacy’, ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 27(6), pp. 1–28. doi: 10.1145/3412367.

Mukerjee, S. and Yang, T. (2020) ‘Choosing to Avoid? A Conjoint Experimental Study to Understand Selective Exposure and Avoidance on Social Media’, Political Communication, pp. 1–19. doi: 10.1080/10584609.2020.1763531.

Zhu, Q., Skoric, M. and Shen, F. (2017) ‘I Shield Myself From Thee: Selective Avoidance on Social Media During Political Protests’, Political Communication, 34(1), pp. 112–131. doi: 10.1080/10584609.2016.1222471.