Yannis Theocharis, William E. M. Lowe
Does Facebook increase political participation? Evidence from a field experiment

Information, Communication & Society, 2016: 19, issue 10, pp. 1465-1486
ISSN: 1369-118X (print); 1468-4462 (online)

During the last decade, much of political behaviour research has come to be concerned with the impact of the Internet, and more recently social networking sites such as Facebook, on political and civic participation. Although existing research generally finds a modestly positive relationship between social media use and offline and online participation, the majority of contributions rely on cross-sectional data, so the causal impact of social media use remains unclear. The present study examines how Facebook use influences reported political participation using an experiment. We recruited young Greek participants without a Facebook account and randomly assigned a subset to create and maintain a Facebook account for a year. In this paper we examine the effect of having a Facebook account on diverse modes of online and offline participation after six months. We find that maintaining a Facebook account had clearly negative consequences on reports of offline and online forms of political and civic participation.