With whom one talks to and the frequency of opinion exchange has extensively been researched and proven to influence an individual's communication network. Associate Professor Adam Saffer explored this concept further through its influence of public social networks on corporations. Saffer and colleagues examined whether “political discussion networks affect citizens' perception of a politically involved corporation and their intentions to engage in consumer activism” (Saffer et al., 2019). Their hypothesis was evaluated and tested through Uber’s “inadvertent involvement” in former President Trumps “Muslim Travel Ban.” Intrigued by their findings, Yan Qu, a postdoctoral scholar at the Hubbard School, joined Saffer to explore additionally how an individual’s social networks may influence their opinions. They researched how communication networks can shape an individual's avoidance of information with regards to COVID-19.
In the primary study evaluated, Saffer and colleagues concluded that they did find network heterogeneity to trigger more unfavorable views toward Uber with their involvement with the “Musilim Travel Ban.” Their results suggest that those with diverse opinions regarding refugees in their networks responded differently to those with predominantly agreeing or disagreeing opinions. This study offers support that political discussions can initiate a dialogue between businesses and societies that may indirectly hold corporations accountable to citizens’ expectations. With this knowledge, Saffer and Qu’s analytical framework in the second study suggested that personal networks can influence an individuals avoidance of information in regards to COVID-19 based upon the behavior and level of approval of their social ties. Their findings revealed that people engage in information avoidance as a way to cope with the disagreement and normative expectations based upon their social relationships.
Saffer, A. J., Yang, A., & Qu, Y. (2019). Talking politics and engaging in activism: The influence of publics’ social networks on corporations in the public sphere. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 63(3), 534–565.
Qu, Y., Saffer, A. J., & Austin, L. (accepted, May 2021). What drives people away from COVID-19 information?: Uncovering the influences of personal networks on information avoidance. Health Communication.