Watson, B.R.(2017). Won’t you be my (Facebook) neighbor? Community communication effects and neighborhood social networks. Paper accepted for presentation at the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication, Chicago, IL.
This paper examines the effect of neighborhood social context, specifically the degree of racial pluralism, on the number of residents who use Facebook to connect with their local neighborhood association to follow issues affecting their community. Analysis is based on a new “community communication effects” approach, replacing the city-wide analysis of prior studies with an analysis of neighborhood data more likely to influence users of newer, participatory communication platforms. Results suggest more complicated, non-linear effects than theorized by the existing literature. Some degree of neighborhood heterogeneity is necessary to create interest in neighborhood issues and spur mediated as opposed to interpersonal communication among neighbors. But too much heterogeneity is associated with a decline in following neighborhood associations on Facebook. The paper identifies where that tipping point occurs and discusses practical and theoretical implications.