Scholars have identified various uses of Facebook by activists and social movements in political activism and beyond. They overlooked, however, the possibility that social movements may take advantage of certain capabilities provided by social media platforms, while neglecting others, thereby creating differences in patterns of use between movements. This article aims to investigate these differences and to assess the role of the lived experience of activists and supporters in shaping them.
The study compared two protests in Israel with respect to (a) activists’ use of social media, (b) the class profile of participants, and (c) the leadership’s demands and their resonance among various social groups. Each case was analyzed by combining thematic and quantitative analysis of online data from Facebook pages and of offline data from various sources.
The two protests exhibited distinctively different patterns of use of the capabilities provided by Facebook. These differences are associated with the lived experience of protest participants and of the individuals the movement leadership sought to mobilize.
The study is the first to show that successful public policy protests can exhibit distinctive use patterns of social media for political activism. It also identifies lived experience as an important factor in shaping these patterns.