Barrier or Booster? Digital Media, Social Networks, and Youth Micromobilization

Thomas V. Maher, Jennifer Suzanne Earl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Research on young people’s protest participation has focused on how the family, peers, and institutions support activism and micromobilization. But digital and social media usage has arguably altered how we interact and how individuals participate in politics and activism, especially among youth. This sets up an important question: Do the institutional supports (e.g., schools) and network ties (e.g., friends and family) that have historically driven micromobilization still matter in a world of pervasive digital and social media usage, particularly for youth? In this article, we analyze this question using interviews with 40 high school and university students. Rather than acting as a disruptive force, we find that digital media has become an integral part of youth micromobilization, facilitating traditional paths to activism and offering pathways to activism for those with no other options. As has been true historically, participation may also be dampened when supportive network ties are absent. We conclude with a discussion of the broader implications for micromobilization and political participation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSociological Perspectives
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • digital media
  • micromobilization
  • qualitative
  • social movements
  • social networks
  • youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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