from the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz
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Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have consistently been the subject of negative reporting. As a result, the positive aspects of digital platforms have been overlooked. With this in mind, a recent study examined the social media activities of a carefully selected group of people using the microblogging platform Twitter.
The authors, dr. Roman Lietz from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and Dr. Fergal Lenehan from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, observe that socially committed Twitter users have unexpected similarities despite different backgrounds. “These digital cosmopolitans share similar values and are guided by similar motivations and perspectives on society,” explains Dr. Roman Lietz from the Department of Translation, Linguistics and Cultural Studies at JGU.
“Digital cosmopolitanism” has so far been little researched
There is hardly a message on social media that does not express some form of criticism. The way in which Donald Trump is re-instrumentalizing Twitter and the radicalization and networking of right-wing terrorists via social media has led to a special focus on the right-wing populist, agitational potential of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and other platforms dominating research . Scientists rarely see the other side: social media as a space for spreading values like solidarity and understanding.
In their study, “Tweeting the World a Better Place,” Dr. Roman Lietz and Dr. Fergal Lenehan this digital cosmopolitanism. They examine the motives, biographies and personality traits that lead ten different people across Europe to take a stand on Twitter for human rights and tolerance, against authoritarianism. The qualitative study focuses on regular people rather than popular accounts from influencers.
Parallels between traditional volunteering and Twitter social engagement
The study finds that the Twitter users surveyed – regardless of age, place of residence and specific interests such as climate protection, combating anti-Semitism or standing up for LGBT rights – show surprising similarities in values, motivations and behavioral perspectives on society and on societal Developments. In addition, parallels between traditional volunteering and cosmopolitan Twitter are clearly recognizable.
“We see this as a form of digital citizen engagement,” says Lietz, describing the results. The study concludes by asking how this form of engagement and commitment to “the world at large” can be achieved in the sometimes harsh environment of social media.
The work has been published in the journal Persona Studies.
More information: Roman Lietz et al., Tweeting the World a Better Place, Persona Studies (2023). DOI: 10.21153/psj2022vol8no3art1653
Provided by the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz