Protests and Activism: A Game between Two Forces


The appearance of social media totally changes our life. We can watch videos, communicate with others or grasp the latest news through it. However, even entertainment is one of the labels that some people always stick on for social media, some other people use social media to achieve their political goals.

First of all, as we all know the majority who spends lots of time on social media is youth, so when someone wants to attract people’s attention, selecting youth as his or her main target seems like a wise choice. Therefore, an activist group or protest movement always has a goal to make youth supports its propositions.

The second goal an activist group or protest movement can achieve by using social media is to obtain others support, which always equals “likes” it received online. As the Asch Experiment shows that, people always influenced by the majority. That is to say, the more “like” a group get, the more chance that an activist group or protest movement has to be supported by the next people, which is a virtuous circle.

What’s more, for activists, documenting and circulating video and images that demonstrate regime violence can help recruit new members to collective action efforts (Youmans & York, 2012, p. 320). By using social media, an activist group or protest movement have more method, including video and image, to propagandize its ideology. And these vivid forms always can be more persuasive than words.

Last but not least, the participatory and outspoken nature of social media could make the use of these sites more consistent with the spirit of emancipation and disrespect for traditional authority that characterizes postmaterialism (Valenzuela, Arriagada and Sherman, 2012, p. 311). Thus making people free their mind is also important for activists, just as an old Chinese saying, teaching one to fish is better than give him fish.


Dreams are always sweet while reality sometimes not. Governments, official departments, even the social media itself can block what people post on social media. Sometimes one’s post on social media blocked because some key words censored by self-censorship of website. However, in the most case it happens because governors don’t like activists’ voice. To isolate these voice, they may block the connection to social media while sometimes they stop the Internet access directly.

As an old saying, while the priest climbs a post, the devil climbs ten. Some activists succeeded in using proxies to circumvent censorship (Youmans & York, 2012, p. 322). Some others select easier ways. For example, in China, we always use nicknames rather than full name of leaders online because their full name sometimes will regard as sensitive words and therefore be blocked. Moreover, because activism does not confine itself to separate online and offline spheres, but instead online interactions can aid offline forms of citizen participation (Valenzuela, Arriagada and Sherman, 2012, p. 311),  thus face-to-face interaction is more powerful than online activities especially when the latter one is blocked.




6 thoughts on “Protests and Activism: A Game between Two Forces

  1. You said that face-to-face interaction is more powerful than online activities, and in real life I think that means activists can not use proxies to be covert and need to make their voice heard using real identities. They may risk their safety under this condition. So I keep thinking how can we protect these people from danger, since leading concept will always confront obstructions, not only from the governmet, but also from society. Is it possible that we appeal to make certain laws to give an access to these people, so that they can find a channel to express their ideas freely without fearing of being attacked?


  2. haha! Great quote from the Chinese old saying. It is a great description to show your opinion and I’ve learnt a lot from that. Nowadays, learning how to think is more difficult and important. Because knowing people’ thoughts shows a result but leaning how to think shows a process. People in the real world often restricted by many factors, thus they can not express themselves with freedom and think independently. However, if they are active on the Internet, influenced by activists and protest groups which are fill with brainstorming, they are able to get to know how to think creatively and independently.


  3. Good explanation of the features of social media, and the affordances to gain public attention. I just want to add a very simple phenomenon of the nowadays weibo’s information dissemination. Weibo got just the very same function as “like”, “repost”, etc. And because the posts which receive the more “likes” would therefore considered as the most popular posts, and can be more easily found when searching for key words & tags compared to other posts, lots of people now register a large amount of accounts and use these accounts to click “like” on other’s posts. Of course it is paid to do so and it is now developing into a unique kind of “job”. And weibo also now got the function for users to pay to “spread”, which means you can choose the post you want the mass to know and pay for it, the platform would automatically disseminate to some users home page (nothing to do with whether thay have followed you or not). And that becomes a first step for those ordinary people, when conducting a social activity, to get the mass & media attention.


  4. I love your mention of the Asch Experiment! I would love to see that replicated today – how the social media activities of others can affect someone’s behavior or how someone might conform via social media use. It is already commonly understood that people follow, like, read and view things that align with their beliefs! I also found your examples from China, such as using nicknames for leaders when posting online, interesting because it illustrates the problems of a restricted internet and how even a free internet is something not accessible to everyone. I also found your argument that face-to-face interaction is more powerful than online activities incredibly spot-on. The most effective online protests still lead to some sort of real-time interaction, such as actual marches or sit-ins or trips to the polls, and I think that is in the end the point of raising awareness over the internet.


  5. The quote about “disrespect for traditional authority that characterizes postmaterialism” was on page 303, not 311. It is important that you cite sources correctly. It is also important that you USE QUOTATION MARKS correctly and carefully while you are COPYING text, or else you will fail a course for plagiarism. SEVERAL times in this post, you copied text without using quotation marks. This is not acceptable.

    First 3 goals are okay. Fourth goal is not clearly stated as an achievable goal. Also, you were instructed to describe how each goal specifically could be thwarted, and you did not do so.


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