Civic Instigators, Contributors, and Listeners: Political Expression on Social Media

Photo by  Serge Melki  /  CC

Slacktivism is based on an assumed attitudinal logic; low-effort forms of digital activism are an easy form of political fulfilment. Drawing on a mixed-method approach that combines reflective diaries with evidence of user behaviour online, this chapter offers a typology of citizen roles in social media environments that identifies the complex motivations for political expression on Facebook and Twitter. The majority of participants in this research are “listeners,” using social networking sites to consume political information but refraining from public forms of expression. Instead, they take to private spaces to discuss politics, either online or face-to-face. These participants keep themselves informed and participate if needed. When listeners do undertake acts of digital micro-activism, this is not easy, but painstakingly deliberated over. For those that do post political updates regularly—described as “civic instigators” and “contributors”—this is a way of raising awareness for causes they deem to be important.

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