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Dr Mohd Faizal Kasmani (left) contends that Facebook users tend to flock with like-minded people, creating vastly-polarised social circles and a hardening of shared opinions. (NSTP/ MOHD YUSNI ARIFFIN)

KUALA LUMPUR: Comments made on Facebook can be more divisive than ones posted on other social media platforms, an expert on political communication said today.

Factors contributing to Facebook’s powerfully-polarising impact include greater reachability, better accessibility and expansive social circles, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia strategic communications centre director Dr Mohd Faizal Kasmani said.

He contends that Facebook users tend to flock with like-minded people, creating vastly-polarised social circles and a hardening of shared opinions.

A study has shown that Malaysians have more than 60 per cent more Facebook friends compared to other users globally.

"Facebook (among others) is about maintaining your connections, your friends. So naturally, you will look for like-minded people, or specific social circles. And these social circles grow," Faizal said when met during a forum on "Communications and Media in the Advent of the 14th general election" held today.

Faizal suggested that Facebook users appear to be more emotive and brusque, due to the stark differences separating the different social circles.

He said Facebook’s wide reach and accessibility bridges the gap between urban and rural areas, bringing together a mix of people from diverse backgrounds.

Behaviour-wise, Faizal said that those who "like" a Facebook page are mostly likely fans or supporters of the user.

"Detractors, (meanwhile) just visit pages to attack the personalities. If they don't like this particular person, they will attack him, but will not like his pages (which is akin to extending support).

"(From the factors mentioned) we can see polarisation taking place. Most of the time, users on Facebook will only see things or read opinions that they will agree with" he added.

Faizal said in comparison, users on Twitter are arguably more tactful and open to arguments, due to exposure to various topics, without the indirect confinements of social circles.

"Twitter is a microblogging site. Users tend to keep their profiles open, and topics and opinions are usually based on trends. You will see everything there, even if you are searching for something specific.

"So, you can see that comments made on Facebook are much harsher than the discourse taking place on Twitter, where users are arguably more tactful and open," he added.

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