Pacific Asia Journal of the Association for Information Systems


Background: In the current sensitive social environment, understanding why citizens voluntarily use social media to express their opinions, can be crucial in driving constructive social outcomes and avoiding perils like online disnformation and polarization. This study aims to identify the key technical affordances of social media that can potentially impact the political participation of its users. We then try to identify the dynamics of how these characteristics of social media influence different aspects of political participation activities taken up by citizens.

Method: In phase one of the study, five focused group interviews were conducted among social media users to identify the affordances of social media at promote political participation. We use the results of this section to propose a research model based on Social Capital theory and Downs theory of political participation. We verify this model in the context of Facebook use by citizens of India. We collected the data using an online survey of 229 social media users and tested the model using the PLS-SEM technique.

Results: The findings of content analysis of the interviews revealed the presence of four prominent affordances in the case of social media use for political participation: Association, Metavoicing, Visibility & Convenience. The result of model verification reveals that social capital created due to the technical affordances mentioned above effectively reduces the cost of participation, and more importantly, provides added benefits such as social recognition, expressive value, and other social rewards.

Conclusions: The study concludes that specific affordances of social media significantly impact citizens’ social capital, perceived costs of participation, perceived benefits of participation, and in turn, impact their participation behavior. The role of social capital in online environment is analogous was crucial in leading to participation outcomes.