Social Media and Social Movements; An Interview with Dr. Vivien Angelus

By; Brandon Cano, Caden Conor, Samantha Bui

Social Media has been a game-changer in the way information is spread across people and the world. Most importantly, social media has made it easier for social movements and political groups to use social media as a tool to spread propaganda and rhetoric. Social movements like Black Lives Matter to the far right-wing The Proud Boys have used social media to coordinate the logistics of events. Rallies and protests, and as a way to communicate with like-minded people and develop an identity in an in-group setting with a set of shared beliefs and views.

To get more of the inside to how people use social media to be influenced to join social movements and connect with likeminded people, we sat down with California State University, Fullerton Dr. Vivien Angelus on social movements and his views on how these political groups and social movements members use social media as a powerful tool.

professor Vivien Angelus

Interview with Dr. Angelus and Brandon Cano

“All right, let’s get into it. Thanks for taking the time to meet with me and help me out with me and my team’s term project for our Comm 410 class. Your participation and time are greatly appreciated. I have read your bio, and I have noticed that you participated in research at the University of Maryland about social movements, as you noted on your biography page for Cal State Fullerton’s College of Communication’s website. My team specifically wanted to get your insight into how these social movements and political group members are influenced by social media in terms of recruitment and spreading their views and rhetoric to the masses.”

How do you think these members of social movements and political groups benefit from social media?

  • Dr. Angelus mentions that when it comes to social movements, people are attracted to them to form a sense of identity with and in group.
  • People tend to try to find a sense of belonging and social media gives people of those demographics the ability to find like-minded individuals and spread propaganda and rhetoric that aligns with their views.

  • Dr. Angelus mentions that while he didn’t focus too much on social media usage in his studies, he did notice from personal experience that social media sites provided a platform to bring awareness to issues that were going on in society that would encourage someone or “fire up” someone to do something to create change or in their reality, making a difference to them and their agenda
  • Dr. Angelus also mentions that from a logistics standpoint, social media can be used as a tool to organize a protest or a rallies.

“People use social media for different tools.”

Dr. Vivien Angelus

How to you think social media creates controversy?

  • Dr. Angelus mentions fandom with sports teams. People use social media like they would with buying memorabilia to create a sense of belonging. This is turn is what can cause heckling amongst rivalry team’s fans when they notice another person wearing gear from another sports team. Dialogue is created, which can be negative or good.
  • Social media plays a role in giving members or followers of a social movement or a political partisan group the platform to engage in potentially positive or negative dialogue with other people online.
  • Members can follow a certain politician, sports team, or activist group to again create a sense of identity and belonging.

So it is safe to say that social media in recently has ignited controversy with partisanship?

  • Dr. Angelus mentions how social media pits Democrats and Republicans against each other.
  • With the presidential term of Donald Trump, his use of Twitter was the main tool to communicate with his followers and create dialogue to fit and developed his agenda(s).

How do you feel social media affects politics?

  • Dr. Angelus states that it creates a unfiltered platform unlike mass media, or controlled media that has editors or gatekeepers who regulate what is and is not published.
  • Because of this, emotion is tied to uncensored rhetoric and dialogue that is produced between members in social media that follow certain pages or profiles.

Lastly, how do you feel social media impacts cancel culture?

  • Dr. Angelus goes over that social media has brought attention again to controversy and offers an unedited and unfiltered channel for people to speak their minds and boycott, or “Cancel” people through bad publicity and created skewed opinions of incidents and people.
  • Overall, Dr. Angelus states that cancel culture was more publicized by the masses with the use of social media and the intentions of people to post anything and record everything currently.

In closing, social media has influenced the way people not only communicate within a community or in-group. It establishes identity and lets people have a sense of belonging and a safe space to speak their minds and spread viewpoints and rhetoric. In this platform, people can recruit like-minded individuals to participate in causes and join political affiliations to build their base. The ability to create dialogue and share viewpoints in an uncensored and unfiltered way gives people not only a sense of pride but can also create a sense of accomplishment and create the ability to network and logistically plan rallies and a means to want to do something about an issue or a cause.

Social media can also be a double-edged sword in the fact that it can do all the benefits mentioned above, but also create havoc and chaos, as the example of the January 6th insurrection at the capitol. It only took one tweet to accomplish this, and it showed front and center how social media and the spreading of ideologies and propaganda can create division and divide.

For more information and insight into this topic and the study of social media influence on social movements and political groups refer to the video below on a recap from team member Caden Conor on an overview of the interview that was conducted with professor Dr. Vivien Angelus.

Caden Conor

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