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New participation, new perspectives? Young adults' political engagement using Facebook




Van Wyngarden, Katharine E., author
Martey, Rosa Mikeal, advisor
Seel, Pete, committee member
Carcasson, Martin, committee member

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This thesis was designed to explore how young adults understand and experience political engagement on Facebook. Some scholars suggest that traditional, active forms of political participation may be declining, creating an uncertain future for democracy. However, other findings suggest that young adults may be choosing to engage in politics through non-traditional avenues, including social networking websites. To explore this possibility, this thesis used 20 in-depth interviews to investigate the nature of youth's political participation on Facebook. The data suggest that Facebook is a meaningful space for political engagement among youth, but that engagement on Facebook is not necessarily comparable to traditional definitions of participation. Rather, it is helpful to think about Facebook as a place for political expression and talk. In addition, the data suggest that scholars should not assume study participants share the same definition of politics with each other or with researchers. As a result, this study argues that scholars should adjust their measures of political engagement on Facebook to account for its features that make political participation unique, rather than assuming that non-traditional participation via social networking websites has limited value or meaning.


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social networking


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