By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Where would we in the media be without studies, those ubiquitous research projects that offer undisputable proof of either a certain conclusion, or its opposite?

Some studies are more valuable than others. And sometimes they reach a conclusion that they simply cannot explain.

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That’s the case with a new study by a Rutgers University researcher that concludes there is a “spiral of silence” in social media where most people tend to avoid speaking out on public policy issues unless they’re confident their opinion will be popular.

The researcher wonders why a medium that was supposed to give rise to unlimited free expression and debate isn’t doing so, and speculates that people are afraid to alienate friends, co-workers, or future employers.

“Social media users may [also] have witnessed those with minority opinions experiencing ostracism, ridicule or bullying online, and this might increase the perceived risk,” he writes.

No kidding.

Whatever its socially-beneficial impact, there’s no doubt the internet has become party central for bullies, creeps, haters and other assorted trolls, who love to use their anonymity to snipe at anyone who dares to have a contrary opinion.

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This has roots in the worst partisanship within our political culture, where the context is good vs. evil and the goal is always destruction of your opponent.

But thank goodness there’s still one place where dissidents can go to express their opinion without anxiety – the voting booth.

At least, that is, the dwindling numbers of us who ever bother to go there.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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Jon Keller