Any onlooker (or onliker?) might feel that debate on social media doesn’t shape views so much as it just entrenches them.
You only have to look as far as Twitter or Facebook to see people who love to express their opinion and do not like having them challenged.
However, researchers from Lehigh University and George Mason University looked at Pew Research Center data in which people self-reported their internet habits, and made some findings that could change your mind about having endless arguments in the "echo-chamber".
The data analysed whether or not people had their minds changed by interactions online.
Within the sample, they found 684 respondents who said they had been “exposed to a political opinion they did not agree with” on a social network.
The researchers, publishing their work in the Journal of Social Media Studies, found that, even if a person wasn’t necessarily seeking information, they were likely to have their views changed:
If the person stumbles into a cross-cutting political discussion while using a social network, he or she has a high possibility of experiencing political view change or increased issue involvement.
Likewise, even without cross-cutting discussion, if a social network user is motivated for information, he or she is likely to experience political view change or issue involvement.
So, as Jesse Singal suggests in New York Magazine: "The stereotype of people going online to argue simply for the sake of reinforcing their own views might be a bit overstated."