Sharing political news: the balancing act of intimacy and socialization in selective exposure


One might think that, compared to traditional media, social media sites allow people to choose more freely what to read and what to share, especially for politically oriented news. However, reading and sharing habits originate from deeply ingrained behaviors that might be hard to change. To test the extent to which this is true, we propose a Political News Sharing (PoNS) model that holistically captures four key aspects of social psychology: gratification, selective exposure, socialization, and trust & intimacy. Using real instances of political news sharing in Twitter, we study the predictive power of these features. As one might expect, news sharing heavily depends on what one likes and agrees with (selective exposure). Interestingly, it also depends on the credibility of a news source, i.e., whether the source is a social media friend or a news outlet (trust & intimacy) as well as on the informativeness or the enjoyment of the news article (gratification). Finally, a Twitter user tends to share articles matching his own political leaning but, at times, the user also shares politically opposing articles, if those match the leaning of his followers (socialization). Based on our PoNS model, we build a prototype of a news sharing application that promotes serendipitous political readings along our four dimensions.

EPJ Data Science