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Javnost - The Public, Vol. 23 - 2016, No. 3

“I don’t Wear Blinkers, All Right?” The Multiple Meanings of Civic Identity in the Indignados and the Role of Social Media

, , pages: 290-306

The global upsurge in collective action has highlighted the extensive use of social media by social movements. Yet the extent to which citizenship is enacted and potentially transformed by social media use within these movements remains under-explored. This study employs a cross-country comparative analysis of the relationship between social media, movement mobilisation and civic membership within the Indignados movement in Greece and France. Through interviews with Indignados members and content analysis of activist discourses in the movement’s Facebook groups, we critically evaluate the potential of social media in (re)defining the meaning and practice of civic membership. The study reveals that civic membership plays a significant role in activist self-identification because the “citizen” category unites subjects despite differences in their political identities. However, social media’s role in the construction of civic and collective identities is highly ambivalent. While on Facebook different subjectivities are brought together under a shared civic identity, in specific Facebook groups users re-enact their partial (nationalistic) identities, creating digital enclaves that host a distinct “we” within the broader Indignados movement. These findings problematise the notion that Facebook has an intrinsic capacity to facilitate online communities which transcend given boundaries; social media can equally sustain existing boundaries of exclusion.

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