MEDIA USE AND SUBJECTIVE SOCIAL COHESION
Examining the reciprocal relationship between media use and subjective social cohesion
Media and social cohesion
There is quite a broad consensus among scholars about the importance of social cohesion. However, the field has often been criticised for the lack of agreement regarding the conceptualisation of social cohesion. Without a consolidated concept, the field has struggled to accumulate empirical data on the phenomenon. In order to conceptualise social cohesion, some authors focus on objective factors in society, such as crime rates and civic engagement, while others conceptualise it as a subjective phenomenon that starts from the individuals’ state of mind and concerns their perceptions of themselves with regards to the society. This study follows the subjective approach to social cohesion, conceptualising the phenomenon as subjective social cohesion. Furthermore, there is a growing concern about the erosion of social cohesion around the world. Media was initially seen as the culprit, argued by the fact that people absorb the overly negative portrayal of everyday life on-screen. However, researchers labelled this explanation as oversimplified, pointing out the individuals who seek attitude-consistent media, which reinforces their attitudes and beliefs. This study aims to investigate whether there is a mutually reinforcing relationship between media use and social cohesion and whether this relationship differs depending on which media type people use. This will be done by using the reinforcing spirals model, in which media use and subjective social cohesion are presented as two variables influencing each other dynamically and continuously. Therefore, the reinforcing spirals model will serve as a theoretical framework for investigating the relationship between subjective social cohesion and media use. This study will use longitudinal panel survey data (N=2254). The results from the cross-lagged panel suggest that the relationship differs greatly depending on the media type in question. On the one hand, overall media exposure was positively associated with subjective social cohesion, and the relationship was found not to be mutually reinforcing. On the other hand, right-wing alternative media was found to have a negative, while left-wing alternative media was found to have a positive mutually reinforcing relationship with subjective social cohesion.