Political engagement online takes work, too. Here’s why.

Political engagement online takes work, too. Here’s why.


So when we think about the digital activism
gap and how I found that groups with more resources, groups with more organizational
infrastructure, and also conservatives were more likely to use the internet than their
left, more horizontal, poor and working class counterparts, it’s important to think about
why that is and how that could possibly change, and what we can really learn from that. And one key element of my findings is that
online engagement takes work. So some of us may feel like we are tethered
to our computers all day, and that we wish we could just kind of check out digitally,
or do a digital detox. But on the– at the same time, there is this
sense that a viral tweet just happens. That a movement online just emerges without
work. And because I found that groups that not only
had more financial resources, but also groups like these Tea Party folks who are middle
class, not working class, middle class, generally, or maybe a lot of people with master’s degrees,
et cetera, or even higher, had a lot of time. A lot were retired, right? And so that partially helps explain why their
online engagement was so high. But also helps explain that if people are
interested in really building a political movement that has a strong online component,
that it takes expertise. It takes understanding the latest Facebook
algorithm or how Twitter is also now engaging with more algorithmic feeds that people see
the same for Instagram, and other social media sites. That if we really want to present a political
issue that’s important to us, we really need to understand how people are actually going
to see it. Because it isn’t the case simply if we build
it, they will come. That online engagement, just like organizing
offline, takes a tremendous amount of work. And also, it’s not just a question of how
to make the Facebook algorithm work for you. It’s also a question of what types of people
do we want to hear our messages? And if we just rely on who tends to have time
and resources to be online, we may be missing out on folks who are a little more marginalized,
who aren’t maybe on the platform that we’re on. And that if we want our message, whatever
that may be, to get out to a wide audience, we really have to understand these dynamics.

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