The Effects of Social Media on Political Movements

I have learnt many things about the influences of social media on people in society from several viewpoints such as politics, law and the market thorough this course.

I am especially interested in the relationship between political engagement and the use of social media. While it is often said that social media has played a crucial role in political activism, to what extent does social media actually have an impact on political engagement?

Since I am from Japan, I would like to pick one of the examples of the current political movements of youths in Japan: SEALDs, Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy. The mass media often argues that one of the reasons for the success of SEALDs’ movement is the power of social media. Here are some quotes:


The use of social media tools by organizers has helped spread word of the growing opposition to the security legislation among students and eventually to housewives and other individuals around Japan (Goto et al., 2015).

So what does SEALDs tell us about contemporary Japan? Certainly the students challenge the prevailing negative stereotype that youth today are politically apathetic, disengaged and happily retreating into a virtual world. The members of SEALDs are a small vanguard that tap into social networks to amplify their influence and mobilize sympathizers to join in demonstrations (Kingston, 2015).

In May, the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs) was formed and has grown rapidly… What separates today’s protests from the ones in the past is the role of social media. People of all ages are now using Twitter and Facebook to organize and share information (Ripley et al., 2015).

…grass-roots movements among typically apolitical groups such as mothers and students — aided by social media — appear to be growing (Yamaguchi, 2015). 


I am always wondering why the media tends to focus on the power of social media and how much social media can have an influence on political engagement in reality. According to Gladwell (2010), social media sites are constructed of weak ties. If it occurs, to what extent does social media really have an influence on political involvement such as SEALDs? Why did the term such as the Twitter Revolution appear as an explanation of the movement in Moldova in 2009 even if there was a few twitter accounts (Gladwell, 2010)?

Although the impacts of social media on society cannot be ignored in terms of both its positive and negative sides, why are some possible other factors sometimes hidden or unforgettable to some extent? I personally think it is important to deliberate on several factors of events by using not only one’s experiences but also logical reasons. How much evidence and responsibility are there when the media discusses the relationship between political participation and social media use? What is missing or who is missing from factors when we think about the effects of social media and why?

References

  1. Gladwell, M. (2010). Small Change: why the revolution will not be tweeted. The New Yorker, 4 October. Available from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/10/04/small-change-malcolm-gladwell [Accessed 22 March 2016].
  2. Goto, R., Iki, M., and Ichikawa, M. (2015). Mothers, students, others march against security legislation as SNS unites opposition. The Asahi Shimbun, 27 July. Available from http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201507270054 [Accessed 22 March 2016].
  3. Kingston, J. (2015). Students oppose Abe’s assault on the Constitution. The Japan Times, 5 September. Available from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2015/09/05/commentary/students-oppose-abes-assault-constitution/#.VvGoDRKLT-Y [Accessed 22 March 2016].
  4. Ripley, W., CNN, and Yamamitsu, E. (2015). Assertive Japan poised to abandon 70 years of pacifism. CNN, 16 September. Available from http://edition.cnn.com/2015/09/16/asia/japan-military-constitution/ [Accessed 22 March 2016].
  5. SEALDs (2015). Statement. SEALDs Eng. Available from http://sealdseng.strikingly.com/#statement [Accessed 22 March 2016].
  6. Yamaguchi, M. (2015). Mothers, students join Japan’s protests over security bills. The Associated Press, 31 Aug. Available from http://bigstory.ap.org/article/4415192814fc4f0386a5dda5b8b80f65/tens-thousands-protest-defense-bills-outside-japans-diet [Accessed 22 March 2016].
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1 Comment

  1. A great blog post – and so relevant to todays lecture even though you did it yesterday! As discussed today there are a number of pros and cons to the idea of social media as a tool to empower protest movements or political engagement. I think it will be hard for us to truly see the effects social media has in this area for a while yet, we need to study more examples, something only possible as more time goes by. Social media definitely has the ability to play a crucial role in political movements, however I think it will be really difficult for groups to control and guide their followers simply through social media.

    Like

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