An Exploration of Social Media’s Impact on Social and Political Justice Movements

Social media has seemingly invaded every inch of our lives. Its unique ability to facilitate the instantaneous sharing of ideas and to connect users with one another has revolutionized our interaction with one another and with the world around us. Because of these characteristics, social media has become a vehicle for social and political movements. Just as its digital platforms have revolutionized our daily lives, social media has undoubtedly impacted how individuals seek justice and encourage mobilization. The combination of my curiosity about this relationship as well as my observation of the growing “popularity” of being “socially conscious” has led me to raise numerous questions. How do reactions and access to contemporary social and political justice movements differ from comparable historical precedents , and how has social media contributed to this shift? How do involvement in social and political justice and “wokeness” impact social status? What role does social media play in supporting trendy and “shallow activism”—supporting movements because of their popularity?

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Part 3: Islamophobia in U.S. and German Social Media

This project has been gratifying and eye-opening to me. I am thankful for the opportunity I received to design and conduct my own research. Studying Islamophobic rhetoric has offered me a fascinating, if disheartening, glimpse into the interaction of different threads of oppression. My research design changed over the process and I was glad to have budgeted extra time. I began by examining previous literature, especially Holmes and Casteñada’s discussion of discursive frames surrounding the refugee crisis in Germany and Puar and Rai’s discussion of the terrorist-monster figure (Holmes and Casteñada 2016; Puar and Rai 2002). After hurdling some technical difficulties in the early stages, the project went relatively smoothly. Above all, I enjoyed synthesizing my findings into a paper that draws from Foucauldian concepts and other literature relating to the topic. My paper delves into the intertwining of Islamophobia with the axes of gender and sexuality.

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Part Two: Islamophobia in US and German Social Media

I have moved past background research and preliminary sampling, delving into the bulk of my sentiment analysis. My research design has shifted somewhat from my original plan. Most importantly, due to budget constraints, I do not have access to the Twitter firehose of “historical” data. Because I can only view Tweets from years past as individual Tweets, I will be conducting only qualitative analysis. Although this alteration means that my sample will be significantly smaller, I actually think that focusing on nuance will improve my project. After all, what I am really interested in are the narratives that take shape on social media.

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Part One: Comparing Xenophobia in US-American and German Social Media

Before I begin analyzing social media posts on a larger scale, it is important to build context for these posts. Therefore, I am beginning my research by reading about asylum/refugee policies, hate crimes, and outspoken critics of immigration in both the US and Germany. I have also begun sifting through the tweets of various users who display resentment towards perceived foreigners. I intend to conduct smaller-scale analysis of social media posts “by hand” before progressing to an automated process. This initial stage is important because it allows me to achieve more depth and accuracy than the automated language analysis will (especially considering how much sarcasm I have already encountered). Another goal of this process is to collect keywords, which I will use in the second stage to design search terms. The information I gather in the first stage will help me filter for xenophobic tweets in stage two.

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