Student Perceptions of Activists and Influence of Social Media on Activism
Activists increasingly use social networking sites to mobilize and organize for social causes. This study examines the relationship between students’ connections on social networking sites and their participation in causes offline, in addition to their perception of activists. A convenience sample of thirty-five students at a large southeastern university was interviewed. Research findings showed that students were more likely to participate in a cause offline if their friends were also attending the event. Facebook, in contrast to other social networking sites, was found to be most effective for facilitating mobilization efforts. Consistent with these findings, students who were part of a social network in which people espoused activist sympathies were more likely to hold favorable perceptions of activists, though not necessarily embrace the label for themselves. While nearly all participants agreed that the label ‘activist’ carried a stigma, some participants more readily identified with the label than others. Despite Facebook’s mobilization efficacy, many participants reported feeling less comfortable voicing their political opinions on Facebook in contrast to Twitter, Tumblr, or Reddit. The study also inquires about student perceptions of the Occupy Wall St. movement.