Frenemies: How Social Media Polarizes America
Why do Americans perceive large social differences between the political parties and negatively evaluate people who identify with the opposing party? In this book, I argue that in the context of increasing partisan polarization among American political elites, the defining characteristics of political communication on Facebook are uniquely suited to facilitate psychological polarization among the American public. Frenemies introduces the END Framework of social media interaction, suggesting novel expectations about the consequences of exposure to political or politicized material on social media. END refers to a subset of content that circulates in a social media ecosystem: a personalized, quantified blend of politically informative expression, news, and discussion seamlessly interwoven into a wider variety of socially informative content. The hallmark distinctions of END communication are a context of byproduct exposure and social inference, its signal rich content, and the disproportionate influence of weak ties in the constitution of the interactions. The way people use social media technology has amplified the cognitive and affective biases to which people are predisposed. The confluence of features and norms on Facebook heighten the salience of political identity, bias the inferences people make about others’ political views, and foster stereotyped evaluations of the political out-group.