Date of Award

5-1-2019

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Veenstra, Dr.Aaron

Abstract

The aim of this dissertation is to examine selective exposure theory on Twitter among student users at Kuwait University, and to revisit selective exposure theory’s assumptions in the social media era. Two studies for this dissertation have been conducted among a total of 1391 participants to examine the selective exposure theory among student Twitter users. In both studies, the researcher conducted an online experiment by developing simulated Twitter interface pages and a simulated news app to study selective exposure theory among Kuwait University students. The first study aimed to examine whether the students at Kuwait University tend to be exposed to politicians in Kuwait’s parliament who share the same political ideologies. The second study aimed to examine to what extent student users selectively expose themselves to specific content on Twitter, or more specifically to their like-minded group, and what drives them to do so. Moreover, the effect of Twitter’s social endorsement features on users' news selection has been examined. Each study sample has been drawn from different classes of students at Kuwait University. This study also looked at the role of incidental exposure as a means of encouraging cross-ideological exposure. One noticeable trend in the two experiments conducted for this dissertation is that partisan selective exposure was clear among students participating in both studies, but at different levels. Also, data showed that there was no clear role for the social endorsements on Twitter among students in this experiment to reduce selectivity. Moreover, a person's political leaning is more likely to surpass the impact of the social endorsements when users are browsing Twitter on a daily basis. Results showed that students in the second study read tweets from accounts they did not follow in real life and they asserted that they experienced that on a high basis. Implications of these two online experiment studies are discussed.

Available for download on Friday, July 23, 2021

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