Are young people who join social media protests more likely to protest offline too?

Oct 17, 2012
© Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers

Among adults who use social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and blogs for political purposes, 42% are under the age of 30. A case study of the controversial Budget Repair Bill in Wisconsin explored whether young adults who use social media are more likely to engage in offline protests, and the results are published in an article in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

In the article entitled "Killing the Bill Online?: Pathways to Young People's Protest Engagement via Social Media ," Timothy Macafee, University of Wisconsin-Madison, compared the relationship between information-seeking behaviors online versus expressive engagement online (defined as using social media as a "soapbox" to share personal views and political events and issues) and actual participation in .

"Individuals use social media primarily for informational and expressive purposes," Macafee concludes. College students used social media to gain information related to the protests in this case study, but that activity did not affect their offline behavior; whereas, "expressive" political social media use encouraged offline protest participation.

"Using social media for information gathering has quite different implications for real world behavior than does use of social media to express oneself (through blogs, tweets, etc.)," says says Brenda K. Wiederhold, PhD, MBA, BCIA, Editor-in-Chief of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and , from the Interactive Media Institute, San Diego, CA. "As young people utilize social media for information gathering more than traditional means, such as television or newspapers, those wishing to influence opinion and individual behavior should pay heed."

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