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“I don’t like it and I think it’s useless, people discussing politics on Facebook”: Young Swedes’ understandings of social media use for political discussion

Journal article
Authors Malin Sveningsson
Published in Cyberpsychology : Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberpspace
Volume 8
Issue 3
ISSN 1802-7962
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.5817/CP2014-3-8
Keywords youth, political participation, citizenship, social media
Subject categories Media and Communications, Human Aspects of ICT, Technology and social change, Youth research

Abstract

Western democracies have seen a decrease in political participation, with young people singled out as the most problematic group. But young people are also the most avid users of online media. It has therefore been argued that online media could be used to evoke their interest in politics, and thus contribute to the reinvigoration of democratic citizenship. Using a mixed qualitative methods approach, this article takes a closer look at 26 young Swedes’ experiences and understandings of social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, as used for political discussions. Compared to the average Swedish 17 to 18-year-olds, the participants are relatively interested in civic and political questions. By focusing on this segment, the article mirrors the experiences of an understudied group – young people who are interested in politics but not engaged. The participants were skeptical about social media as used in relation to politics, and expressed doubts about their suitability and usefulness. Four themes were identified, where three have to do with perceived risks: for conflict, misunderstandings and deceit. The participants also expressed the idea of online political activities as being less authentic than their offline equivalents. The idea that young people want and expect something that political organizations cannot live up to is one of the most dominant discourses that characterize the discussion on youth political participation today. However, while some properties of social media fit well into what young people have been found to prefer, for the participants, negative traits seem to outweigh the positive ones, thus discouraging them from participating.

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