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How Facebook Facilitates Interactions of Systematically Excluded Communities within Advocacy Movements.

Social media is the central hub for users to receive, distribute, and create information, ideas, messages and content on the internet through different platforms, thus creating online communities (Edosomwan et al., 2011). It has transformed the way people communicate and interact globally. Facebook is the most commonly used social media platform, with over 3.5 billion users globally, followed by WhatsApp, Instagram and then Twitter (Mohsin, 2020). These social media websites are attractive to users as they are the most convenient way to discover information, they can be accessed on any modern technology, from computers, smartphones to smart televisions and they facilitate communication for social networking. Social media has eliminated geographic and cultural boundaries by being vastly available worldwide. Giving people the ability to connect with others from different backgrounds, cultures, countries and perspectives that it becomes a powerful platform. The best example of a social media platform that facilitates all of their purposes is Facebook. The features of Facebook have given the opportunity for communities who have been systematically excluded from traditional media. These communities include African- American groups, people with a chronic illness or disability and people who fall in the lower socioeconomic bracket. Facebook has been powerfully used as a platform for these marginalised communities to project their values, opinions and voice through raising awareness, calling people around the world to action and their success in political campaigning.

Facebook has been powerful for African American communities due to the success of raising awareness for the Black Lives Matter campaign. This community is composed of Americans with any form of ancestry from any racial groups of Africa. The controversy that African Americans face from other races include violence, systemic inequity, higher rates of poverty, racism, as well as workplace bullying. Two major issues that the community face are police brutality and racism. The use of excessive and unnecessary force, verbal assault and psychological intimidation is found common among all police brutality cases (Mapping Police Violence, n.d). This is drastically more prevalent towards the African American communities within America. There has been a rapidly increasing rate of police brutality where African Americans are three times more likely to be killed by police as compared to other Americans (Mapping Police Violence, n.d). Black Lives Matter is an activist movement that focuses on the African American community (Black Lives Matter n.d). The campaign aims to eliminate and raise awareness of violence and systematic racism, with the mission to create and build upon local power. Through Facebook, the message is effectively conveyed to support the intervention on African American communities through the state and vigilantes (Black Lives Matter n.d). Social media has played and continues to play a vital role for activist movements. Facebook especially, has aided African Americans activists to voice their power and broaden the movement impact. Facebook offers effective communication features such as shareable content, ‘like’ and ‘share’ button from targeted audiences, and the ability to post different modes of media; written posts, images or videos. Which are all features that facilitates the specific practices of communication on Facebook. As a scaling tool, social media strengthens the movement by facilitating collective meaning-making and creating support networks while expanding the movement (Mundt, Ross & Burnett, 2018.) The Black Lives Matter movement practices the strategy of scaling through the use of media accounts, influencers and conducting interviews. These techniques enable the movement to effectively build deeper connections with their community members. The result of using the techniques include an encouragement of greater participation and amplification of their narratives. A sense of a safe and empathetic environment allows the African American community to feel significantly more comfortable in being able to express their political views and beliefs online. The Facebook platform campaign includes people that have similar beliefs and opinions, being able to exchange thoughts. Over millions of African Americans are being heard, understood and validated, with the support now extended globally by numerous races, countries and beliefs of people. This enables the Black Lives Matter movement to form coalitions as well as to amplify and disseminate non-dominant discourses about police brutality and black liberation. Facebook pages and groups have provided a safe space for protestors to meet as well as a “type of public commons for free speech” that is not easily available elsewhere. This idea of safe and ‘free speech’ space is applicable for all marginalised communities to feel comfortable on the internet whilst building a community (Mundt, Ross & Burnett, 2018). The success of the movement of the campaign and the results of the campaign for the community draws attention to the racial issues and systematic inequality that are evident throughout the American law enforcement system. The campaign has raised and influenced the public concern to act upon the embedded racism. This campaign is the powerful voice of the African American community that has been projected across social media platforms, especially Facebook (Iorio, 2017).

Having a disability can pose a challenge to be involved in social communities. Depending on the extent of their disability, people diagnosed with a disability or a chronic illness face social issues such as lower level of education, socially isolated, experience fewer opportunities to participate in communal activities, and/or live in poor quality or insecure housing (Kent et. Al. 2016). Social media has benefited this group by being a convenient source where they discover information, available services and even making new friends online. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that targets the nervous system, weakening the muscles and impacts physical functions. This alone affects 30 000 people in the United States with 5000 new cases diagnosed each year (Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d.). Social media has helped this community of people aged over 60 immensely by raising awareness, funding and support for the ALS community (Sutherland, 2016). The ALS association is the only non-for profit organisation in the United State which only focuses on raising funds for the ALS community. Their goal is to raise funds, awareness and education to the organisation and the disease. Through the use of Facebook and other social media platforms, the ALS ice bucket challenge was shared and became the most effective fundraising campaign/activity known for ALS. The challenge, essentially, is a viral movement that spread across Facebook with over 3 million participants. The challenge involves recording yourself dumping a bucket of ice water over your head and then nominating another three people to do the same. Reportedly, the challenge raised over US$115 million. It reached global audiences and even received recognition and participation from high profile celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah and Mark Zuckerberg; the creator of Facebook. This illustrates that the ALS community values the recognition and participation from celebrities and influencers over exposure on traditional media. It shows the power of social media setting trends and its ability to allow almost anything to become viral. Study shows that the cause of success for the ice bucket challenge is the theories of propinquity and immediacy presence being applied to a social media environment (Sutherland, 2016). Propinquity essentially describes the state of being in close proximity to someone or something (Sutherland, 2016). The curiosity and desire to relate to the ALS community creates an impulse for challengers to receive a mirror painful effect temporarily from pouring down ice cold water. Being able to be in the shoes of someone with the disease for a short period of time makes the challenge easy to complete with household items. The convenience of the challenge makes a greater impact on raising awareness for the community. The popular trend for completing the challenge enables people to feel a sense of empathy towards those suffering with ALS. Whereas, immediacy of presence is where the dialogue on issues are taking place in present rather than after the decision is being made by both parties. It is essentially the transparency between the targeted public and the inclusion of the targeted public into a decision-making process (Sutherland, 2016). Facebook is a platform that facilitates the discussion and interactions between an organisation and its stakeholders. It is also a platform that possesses tools to display transparency between the two parties. These tools and features include Facebook polls, and the ability to post different modes of content. The ice bucket challenge connected the participant directly with the organisation as the ALS community feels more included into a broader social community as mentioned, those with disabilities find it more difficult to relate to the broader society. As the challenge received global recognition from other industries including the government and political parties, this opened up more opportunities for the community to receive significantly more resources and funds directed to them. These are put into use to raise even more regular awareness to the general public and invested to continue research in the medical field. 

Facebook has been a powerful tool for people in the lower socioeconomic spectrum. As a community, they struggle with social issues such as social discrimination, lack of and ineffective participation in political decision making, the burden of poverty and financial strains. For years, political figures have attempted to break the barriers between these social issues to provide these people with accurate information, social opportunities and financial aid. It is evident that there is a relationship between the socioeconomic status of an individual and their level of political participation. Research have shown that people with lower socioeconomic status community results in the lack of political participation (Kruass, 2015).

This is a result of limited accessibility to education, current affairs and income, overall lacking social and economic resources. This suggests that the American government is systematically biased against lower socioeconomic status and skewers voting results as the data is collected upon primarily advantaged middle-upper class (Kruass, 2015). An organisation that has been supporting lower socioeconomic status groups is the Poor People’s Campaign (Poor Peoples Campaign, n.d). This campaign was sparked by the 1968 civil rights movement in America. Their primary focus is advocating against systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and America’s war economy (Poor Peoples Campaign, n.d). They aim to change moral narratives, policies and elections to create power for poor and impacted people. In 2019, brought together over 1000 community leaders in Washington, DC to support Poor People’s moral action congress (Poor Peoples Campaign, n.d). This helped them to release a Poor Peoples Moral budget and scored them a hearing with the House Budget committee. This meeting was held to discuss using funds and resources for the 140 million people that are poor and under the low-income bracket of the nation (Poor Peoples Campaign, n.d). The Poor People’s Campaign communicates to its target audience and publics primarily through Facebook. Many political parties have found it more effective to release political campaigns on Facebook as it is an inexpensive way of online advertising and reaching/distributing mass information to a wider audience and different content can be tailored to specific communities and target audience (Auter & Fine, 2018). There have been techniques and strategies used by political parties, non-for-profit organizations and activist groups on how they target their audience on Facebook to receive an action towards political decision making. These strategies are used to combat mobilization action from the target public. The influential hypothesis is a strategy that describes how Information by the media can shape an individual’s opinion by a selected group of opinion leaders (Auter & Fine, 2018). It also explains the individuals ability to determine a trend that is influenced by their peers through the interchange on information and messages. Ultimately, it is how social networks can influence the spread of information, the action and beliefs of a particular group (Auter & Fine, 2018). The rise in a hybrid media system where, the forms of old and new media communication methods used together to create a modern norm of communication, is an opportunity for new campaigns to use Facebook as an effective communication channel (Kruass, 2015). Due to the changes of digitization and convergence of information, Facebook has become a platform that has reached greater audiences than newspapers (Kruass, 2015). These two strategies used together are evident in the Poor People’s Campaign as the campaign presents strong content about their mission. These strategies have allowed people within this community to connect with others alike and source out organizations that will aid them. Facebook becomes a virtual space where they find comfort in sharing their experience behind the screen. The Poor People’s Campaign often use influencers and mentors to engage with their community as a way to facilitate two-way communication. Projecting a sense of belonging and inclusivity for the community. The elements of consistency, transparently and effective action through the Poor People’s Campaign for the community build trust within the people and the organisation. Combined with the availability of Facebook, it facilitates connection between the Poor People’s campaign and their community.

Facebook has been powerfully used as a platform for these marginalised communities to project their values, opinions and voice through raising awareness, calling people around the world to action and their success in political campaigning. The communities include African- American groups, people with a chronic illness such as ALS or a disability and those who are considered a part of the lower socioeconomic bracket. It is important for these communities to achieve in a sense of belonging through a platform, as there have been limited recognition in the broader community of traditional media. The most essential aspect of social media platforms is that people from different backgrounds, cultures, various countries and perspectives are able to connect; making it an impactful platform. The prime example of a social media platform that facilitates all of their purposes is Facebook and its features have given numerous opportunities and openings for communities who have been systematically excluded from traditional media. This is evident in the variety of social groups and organizations surrounding different communities that have been developed on Facebook such as, the Black Lives Matter, The ALS community and the Poor People’s Campaign. Social media platforms, similar to Facebook, are attractive to users as they are the most effective and convenient channel to discover information. Facebook can be accessed on any modern technology with an internet connection ranging from computers, smartphones to smart televisions, while facilitating communication for social networking. Making Facebook readily available for anyone, anywhere and anytime.

References:

Auter, Z. J. & Fine, J. A. (2018). Social Media Campaigning: Mobilization and Fundraising on Facebook. Social Science Quarterly, 99(1), 185-200. https://doi.org/10.1111/ssqu.12391

Blach-Orsten, M., Eberholst, M. K., & Burkal, R. (2017). From Hybrid Media System to Hybrid-Media Politicians: Danish Politicians and Their Cross-Media Presence in the 2015 National Election Campaign. Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 14(4), 334-347. Https://doi.org/10.1080/19331681.2017.1369917.

Black Lives Matter. (n.d). About. Retrieved from https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/

Chaney, C., & Robertson, R. (2013). Racism and Police Brutality in America. Journal of African American Studies 17(4), 480-505. Https://doi.org/10.1007/s12111-013-9246-5

Edosomwan, S., Praksan, S., Kouame, D., Watson, J., & Seymour, T. (2011). The History of Social Media and Its Impact on Business. Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, 16(3), 79-91. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/docview/889143980?accountid=10382

Iorio, D. (2017). The True Impact of Black Lives Matter. Trinity College Digital Repository. Retrieve from https://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/fypapers/80

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d). ALS – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/centers_clinics/als/conditions/als_amyotrophic_lateral_sclerosis.html

Kent, M., Elis, K., Zhang, H., & Xu, J. (2016). Using Social Media to Advance the Social Rights of People with Disability in China: The Beijing One Plus One Disabled Persons’ Cultural Development Centre. http://link.library.curtin.edu.au/p?cur_dspace_dc20.500.11937/50836

Krauss, M.W. (2015). The Inequity of Politics: Social Class Rank and Political Participation. IRLE Working Paper no. 102-15. Retrieved from http://irle.berkeley.edu/workingpapers/120-15.pdf

Poor Peoples Campaign (n.d). About. Retrieved from https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/about/

Mapping Police Violence. (n.d). Police Violence Map. Retrieved from https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/

Mohsin, M. 2020, February 7). 10 Social Media Statistics You Need to Know in 2020 [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://au.oberlo.com/blog/social-media-marketing-statistics

Mundt, M., Ross, K., & Burnett, C. M. (2018). Scaling Social Movements Through Social Media: The Case of Black Lives Matter. Social Media and Society 4(4). https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305118807911

Sutherland, K. E. (2016). Using Propinquital Loops to Blend Social Media and Offline Spaces: A Case Study of The ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge. Media International Australia 160(1), 78-88. Https://doi.org/10.1177/1329878X16651138

8 replies on “How Facebook Facilitates Interactions of Systematically Excluded Communities within Advocacy Movements.”

Hi Nisrina,
Firstly your paper was very interesting and I found you had some very insightful points. The “Black Lives Matter” movement was and still is a big part of online communities And I think it’s a great example of how social media has really brought people together, from all walks of life.

You mentioned that social media sights eliminate geographical and cultural factors but I’m not sure this is always the case. As I believe there is still a geographical boundaries for those countries that don’t have the necessary resources to access social media. And as for the cultural factor I find sometimes that it’s very westernised in a way as there is still some boundaries. For example China having their own social media platform and banning Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc. I find this to play a part in the cultural aspect and environment of these social media platforms.

I would love to know if you have any comments on this

Thanks,
Jade

Hi Jade!

Yes I definitely agree that there are still restrictions and geographical barriers of social networking and the internet between some nations. China and North Korea being one of the most strictest countries amongst the world! However, in a larger retrospect, social networking has majorly overcome the boundaries of convenient communication worldwide.

I also agree that social media in particular has a very westernised influenced, which has then impacted other cultural behaviours such as entertainment and music. I think this is another interesting topic to dive into when it comes to the western influence on asian culture through social media and networks.

Thank you for your comments Jade!

Nisrina Alfie.

Hi Nisrina

I really enjoyed your paper; it was extremely well written! I found the part stating that police brutality cases are rapidly on the rise very interesting. Wouldn’t you think with the increase of racial social awareness and new measures for police accountability such as body cams, that we should see a decline in these cases? What are you thoughts as to why this is not the case?

Hello Lochlan!

I do not expect to see a decline in police brutality case in America as I would hope so especially with more movements presented online.
Though there are new measures for police accountability, it is still ultimately up to district attorneys to arrest and charge wrongful officers. I think the most effective method of police accountability is pressuring district attorneys for stricter regulations and legislations towards police brutality.

Thank you for your thoughts!

Nisrina Alfie.

Hi Nisrina,
Your paper was very informative and well written! I totally agree with you, Facebook has indeed allowed those particular communities that you mentioned, to have a voice and to express themselves. The part on African American communities, reminds of Ahmaud Arbery case related to discrimination and violence against black people and the Black Lives Matter movement. Several hashtags were created to seek justice and celebrities also reacted on their social media pages giving it more exposure. This contributed in the arrest of the two men involved in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. This shows how social media is indeed an effective and powerful tool for raising awareness on a particular issue.
I learned a lot from your paper! Again, great work!

Regards,
Ludivine

Thank you for your feedback Ludivine!

The current riot and fight for justice of George Floyd in America is another example of how power social media can be when it comes to injustice. The influence of social media right now can influence the actions of a whole community!

Nisrina Alfie

Hi Nisirina,

An interesting read.

I was compelled to comment on this paper due to its focus on the Black Lives Matter movement. As I am sure you aware of, this is currently dominating public discourse.

I do agree that Facebook has previously facilitated interactions of systematically excluded communities and advocacy movements. However, I believe Instagram is currently the platform people prefer to use due to the affordances it offers.

Speaking from personal experience, my Instagram is quite literally flooded with information about the Black Lives Matter movement currently. I am finding out how others have contributed to the movement and how I can get involved. In addition to this, it is far easier to locate related pages and interact with likeminded people on Instagram. In contrast, Facebook is limited to the scope of your friends, making it harder to find information related to advocacy movements if your friends are not directly involved. What do you think?

Please check out my paper if you get a chance!

https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020Curtin/2020/05/11/the-role-of-web-2-0-in-the-rise-of-online-hate-groups-such-as-incels/

hi tess!
thank you for your thoughts.

Yes I definitely agree! Instagram is dominating as the platform where users prefer to express their solidarity with the black lives matter movement.

As I was composing my conference paper, there were limited examples of how instagram is an effective social media platform for advocacy movements. If i were given the chance to rewrite my paper, i will definitely base my paper around the current BLM movement, how instagram have facilitated these movements and how instagram has created a power community.

I also agree that on Facebook, if the groups you are joined in, the friends you follow and pages you like are of your personal interest and not associated with advocacy movements, it will be more challenging to access advocacy information. I also think that on Facebook, it has become a habit for users to depend on their friends for information. which can be hazardous as that is how misinformation generally forms. As compared to Twitter and Instagram it is a lot easier to discover what the rest of the world is talking about and joining into that conversation.

I think Facebook is still an effective social media platform for creating and maintaining an online community, however when it comes to a greater scope and a greater conversation, Twitter and Instagram offers better affordances.

Nisrina Alfie

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