Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Major Professor

Bruce Tonn

Committee Members

Michael R. Fitzgerald, John M. Scheb, Benjamin Bates


The optimistic vision of the Internet as an “electronic agora” has been a common theme of discourse among scholars studying the impacts of computer technology on everyday life. In opposition to this view stand pessimistic scholars who insist that meaningful democratic discourse must be direct and claim that the Internet, like television, is reshaping our lives in decidedly antidemocratic and asocial ways. The present study contributes to this debate by examining online social networks to better understand their potential impact on society. Data were collected via a web-based survey using a convenience sample of 170 students from the University of Tennessee. The results of this study suggest that through their socializing efforts, members of online social networks have the potential to enrich their lives by connecting to society, increasing the diversity of their friendships, and collecting and disseminating political information. The findings herein are likely to be of particular interest to 1) academics studying the effects of Web 2.0 technologies on society, 2) political activists and strategists interested in using such technologies to communicate with and mobilize young adults, and 3) social scientists studying political socialization.

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