This article explores how young activists in Portugal and Finland negotiate the value of social media in their practices. Considering the near ubiquitous intertwinement of online-offline environments, and its contradictory promises for social movements, we look at these negotiations through the moral principles drawn upon to critique and justify social media practices. Based on ethnographic data from Portuguese climate activists and Finnish mental health activists, we build on pragmatist sociology as an analytical frame to investigate value and meaning-making within these social movements. Results show how activists predominantly criticize social media for its fame-valued logic, which they consider leading to the individualization and depoliticization of communication and the 'marketization' of messages and practices. These challenges are managed with reference to the groups' civic values through two sets of practices: 1) grounding the online and 2) repurposing individualism. Yet these practices reveal different compromise strategies in each country to accommodate social media demands and core group values, highlighting different interpretations of civic values that materialize in competing stances in relation to 'political' content and 'individual' action. We argue that an analytical framework focusing on values as they unfold in everyday practices is particularly apt to understanding meaning construction in social movements, whose very essence is the evaluation and critique of existing justifications within certain socio-political arrangements.
Fields of Science
- social media