Free Essay Example on Social Media Impact on Protests

Published: 2022-12-14
Free Essay Example on Social Media Impact on Protests
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Political science Social activities Social media Social change
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1855 words
16 min read


The most significant technological innovation today is the use of the internet to connect the world. The world today is considered flat because web-based sites allow people from all the corners of the earth to interact with each other. A few decades ago the terms such as "hashtag" or "retweet" or "newsfeed" made no absolute sense in sociology, but have meaning in the present day and age. Facebook, Twitter and other social networks changed the definition of socializing as more and more people continue to have new ways of sharing the social aspects of their life (Fuchs, 2017). The communication tools that are enabled computer networks have facilitated for people to share and consume information with each other on a global scale. The social media companies have made the process of joining their platforms very easy as all a person needs is to create a personal user account and the creation of a profile to interact with other users. While social media has had a significant impact on the lives of people in the 21st it has shaped various issues in different ways either positively or negatively. Social media has had various issues that are yet to be addressed such as cyberbullying, spamming, online privacy and a more recent aspect termed as "fake news". The most significant aspect of social media is the impact it has on social activism and protests. This paper seeks to evaluate the effect of social media on social protest movements.

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Social media was initially created to be a social interaction tool where people would connect people where they would share and consume information about each other with family and other close acquaintances. Early social media platforms include Myspace, Friendster and hi5 although Six Degrees is considered to be the first social networking site. These companies used internet-based applications to create an interactive tool for users whereby they would connect their profiles. The users in these platforms engage with each other and in the process create highly interactive sharing of information. The user-generated content is considered the most crucial component of social media. The launch of Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2006 popularized the use of social media by people around the world with both of them having more than 100 million registered users to date (Fuchs, 2017). YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Telegram and Pinterest are other current favorite social media platforms that have more than 100 million registered users from all over the world. The increased use of social media indicates that on average, users spend more than 22% of their daily life on social media. People are involved in documenting their memories, the creation of new ideas as well as exploration and learning of new things.


The world today has more than 3 billion active social media users who are nearly half of the earth's human population. The use of the internet has facilitated a platform where people can protest to realize particular changes or achieve specific results. Social media has empowered people around the world to have a voice about political, social and cultural issues that affect the human society. Studies by the Pew Research Center indicate that a majority of the American population has participated in at least one form of social or political activism on social media (Perrin, 2015). The Equal Rights Movement which was started decades ago to ensure equal civil liberties for minorities such as people of colour and women by planning street protests continues in the world today through online platforms. While Martin Luther King planned and participated in bus and street marches, today, people such as Alyssa Milano rely on the use of hashtags to express their concerns on social media. The utilization of hashtags which was first started on Twitter is now incorporated on nearly all social media platforms which allows users to know what is trending on the internet.

Political Impact

Internet users today are more aware of the political issues that happen or affect them locally or globally and are more involved compared to previous periods in time. The demographics of young people who previously were passive to politics and expressed their political concerns through social identities such as hippie or punk cultures can now share their views on social media. The majority of social media users are young people and are more exposed to politics through news posted on platforms such as Facebook. There is democratic participation by involving users to contribute to political processes and activities. The nationals of countries continue to hold their governments accountable through social media activism. Through pressuring politicians, people around the world continue to seek justice and change for various issues that affect society. In 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement was started with a hashtag as a result of the acquittal of a policeman who shot a 17-year-old black teenager (Carney, 2016). The social media protest was as a result of the continued killing of unarmed black people by law enforcement authorities. The hashtag was used more than 30 million times on Twitter and is considered one of the most significant modern political protests to influence change in the United States (US) justice systems.

The debate on social media by people around the world made politicians to pay attention to issues that surrounded race, violence and law enforcement authorities. Social media was used to give a voice to underrepresented minorities in addressing real concerns in their lives. However, the political engagement fueled by social media protests has had the downside of creating the concept of "slacktivism" whereby people are distracted from the real issues that need to be addressed. For example in 2014, Boko Haram which is a terrorist militia group in Nigeria kidnapped 276 girls (Chiluwa & Ifukor, 2015). The world reacted by sharing pictures on the internet with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls which lasted for a short period. Although the engagement was high, it did not prompt nations with the military expertise to rescue the girls to take action. Another setback to social media protests is the active filtering or imposing strict regulations on the use of the internet by governments around the world. King, Pan & Roberts (2017) states that in China, the government has banned the use of social media for the purpose of activism with extreme consequences leading to imprisonment or banning of specific social media platforms in their country.

Social Impact

Online protests are crucial in the way that they influence social changes in society today. Social media platforms make it possible for people with similar opinions or share common causes to take collective action. People with like-minded ideas identify with each other and have a big following for their purposes during a short period. The proliferation of social media allows for a quick sharing of content through the internet to a massive audience. Notably, people do not check the authenticity of the content shared on social media, and it leads to participating in causes that are not valid or unworthy of pursuing. Social media activism is used as a motivator to influence the way that people think or interact with each other in real life (Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017). People on the internet share and replicate opinions on things that they lack enough knowledge or specifics about. In social media, it is not uncommon for ideas to be shared while they are not facts, but be shared by many people who lack knowledge of the specific nature of those ideas. Therefore, the internet is a public space that encourages and empowers individuals or groups to influence social changes in the society which can have serious implications.

In 2016, US citizens participated in a controversial presidential elections in the history of the country. Donald Trump who was the Republican candidate won the elections amidst several issues that surrounded him before the elections. During the campaign season, the Republican candidate used the slogan "Make America Great Again" which was used as a hashtag on social media under #MAGA (Huber, 2016). The slogan was used to influence activism by voters who supported Trump and believed he would rid America of the problems that faced the country. However, as much as the slogan was a symbol for change that some Americans believed the country needed especially after going through an economic slump, it was used to fuel polarization. Trump supporters who were especially white and from the South and Mid-West states were influenced and swayed to vote for him. News articles were shared on Facebook by foreign propagandist from Russia after data mining on Americans by Cambridge Analytica. The news shared on Facebook involved exposes on prominent Americans including the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The massive sharing of these "fake news" on Facebook made the social media movement #MAGA popular especially amongst the white populations who had no college education by believing in the disinformation (Shu, Sliva, Wang,Tang, & Liu, 2017). Americans in an echo chamber were influenced into thinking that unfortunate state of their economy was attributed to the high number of migrants in the US and other conspiracy theories. The Republican candidate in his manifesto promised to build a wall that separated Mexico and the US to keep migrants from illegally getting into America. This social media movement promoted cultural intolerance and ethnocentrism in America as voters preferred the Republican candidate who had extreme views on sensitive social aspects.


Online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have the potential to influence cultural change just from one message posted by one person. The world today can experience rapid transitions from one single post that would have a domino effect by reaching people around the globe. Change can be influenced by content created by a user who influences and inspires others around the world to participate in a revolutionary process. An individual's desires to participate in a protest are primarily group efficacy, social identification and moral outrage. These motivators influence people to share motivational and emotional messages on social media to support a cause. The profound experience shared by Alyssa Milano on Twitter in 2017 with the hashtag #MeToo prompted other women around the world to influence change against a patriarchal culture (Mendes, Ringrose & Keller, 2018). The movement triggered other women to share about sexual harassment in their places of work which led to prominent men such as Harvey Weinstein to be stripped of their positions of employment. The #MeToo movement which started as a single tweet by the famous Hollywood actress turned into a global change within a short period. Women around the world participated, and the movement was adapted to suit the different languages. The online protest contributed significantly to the struggle for gender equality around the world. The success of the campaign is attributed to the participation by prominent women in the activism as well as the global attention it got to influence cultural changes in the workplace.


The internet provides opportunities for businesses around the world to grow and expand in their operations due to aspects such as digital marketing. Amazon which is one of the largest online retailers in the world attributes its success to the strategic use of the internet. Customers can share online reviews about products and services offered by business entities around the world.

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