Protests and Activism: Activists Strategies to Achieve Their Goals through Social Media Platforms

A new modality to conduct democracy today is that activists enhance collective activities through various social media platforms. While social media companies aim at earning money and state power coerce pressure on community policing, some conspicuous events, like the Arab Spring, suggest that the new form offers activists more opportunities and channels to pursue their goals. Despite the fact that different activist group will have very different objectives, there are some general goals they may achieve by using media platforms. I will conclude four specific goals here.

First, through activist groups’ effort to disseminate their opinions online, people who don’t know their ideas before can get more informed and affected, thus attract new people into the group. As Youmans and York state, “For activists, documenting and circulating video and images that demonstrate regime violence can help recruit new members to collective action efforts.” (Youmans & York, 2012, p. 320). Compared to traditional ways to convene mass people for a certain target, social media provide a more convenient space for information diffusion. Not only can activists spread their ideas more easily, people who are interested in their ideas can also get information quickly just by searching for the hashtags or key words on social media.

Second, activists can raise considerable attention to a certain phenomenon via graphic videos or photos transmitted online. The effect of videos and photos can be more electrifying than words. If activists want to expose unknown facts, the easiest way is to post a typical video or photos online that strike people’s heart.

Third, appropriate publicity and organization through social media can make governments and political leaders change their minds and improve democracy. Apart from decision making, governments also rely on their subjects’ support to survive. Social media can gather dissents in a fast way. If the public dissatisfaction to an affair is accumulated, political leaders may have to give in and make new decisions to ease the public nerve.

Finally, as Valenzuela, Arriagada and Scherman concluded, “Social network sites have several affordances for promoting participation, particularly protest behavior among youth.” (Valenzuela, Arriagada and Scherman, 2012, p. 302). Youth are affected by the ways that activists express their opinions and exercise a critical way of thinking at an early age because of the information flow on the internet.

However, due to commercial interests of the social media companies and government surveillance and community policing, activists sometimes face the dilemmas that their accounts will be closed or even their personal safety can be at risk. And also, “there is the risk of furthering inequality if the population of social media users is skewed toward the technologically savvy and those with high human, social, and economic capital.” (Valenzuela, Arriagada and Sherman, 2012, p. 311)

Activist groups can circumvent these obstacles through proficient utilization of social media skills. Moreover, “they can pressure large social media companies via long-term, iterative, incremental advocacy.” (Youmans & York, 2012, p. 320).


5 Comments Add yours

  1. matt says:

    You noted that social media can gather enough dissent that leaders might have to “give in.” That made me wonder at what point would a leader give in instead of continuing to ignore protesters. In an authoritarian government, it would have to be out of fear of a coup or an economy-sinking work stoppage. In a democracy, fear of losing an election or bad international attention.
    I feel like most protests you hear about that lead to any type of meaningful reaction from political leaders because they really don’t reach the point where a leader has to give in. Nevertheless social media has helped these movements grow in size and improve in organization.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lin'ao Li says:

    I agree with your opinion of both activists and public enjoy the convenience that social media provided. Especially, I think anonymity plays a significant role in this convenient environment. Undoubtedly, anonymity is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, people behind an account may not as rational as they once be in real society, disguising with a fake name makes people dare to speak something impolitely. Thus we can “hear” more rude words online rather than offline. On the other hand, anonymity makes people express their real perspectives. For instance, when talking some political events in real society, even if one has different opinion with majority, he or she may keep silence rather than argue with others because of doesn’t want to be excluded by others. However, when using a social media, anonymity decreases even avoids the possibility of appearance of this situation, which makes people speak what they think rather than echo others.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. oalbishri says:

    Your first point is absolutely true. The social media networks introduced me to activists I haven’t heard of them before. As I followed their accounts, I get to know their opinions and attitudes toward many issues that we face in the Middle East. I became more aware of social and political issues that our traditional mass media has been hiding them for a long period. Those activists were not allowed to be hosted in TV channels, and their websites have been always blocked by the government authority. Social media networks now allow me to interact with them, and even argue with them.


  4. 4 goals OK. Goal 4 is not described as well as the others, but OK. Four citations OK. How the goals can be thwarted or blocked is not attached to the specific goals. Nice post!


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