Constructing Public Space| Rousing the Facebook Crowd: Digital Enthusiasm and Emotional Contagion in the 2011 Protests in Egypt and Spain

Paolo Gerbaudo



The activist use of Facebook pages in the 2011 movements of the Egyptian revolution and the Spanish Indignados saw phases of exponential growth in user engagement in proximity to key protest events, signaled by spikes in likes and comments. This article analyzes these episodes as moments of digital enthusiasm facilitated by emotional communication on political Facebook pages. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative analysis of Facebook data, I argue that two elements concurred to build moments of digital enthusiasm: (a) the hopeful narrative produced by activist admins managing political Facebook pages, and (b) the receptivity and cooperation of ordinary Internet users who overwhelmingly reinforced the message put forward by activist admins. This emotional dialogue between admins and users generated a process of emotional contagion that helped establish propitious psychological conditions for mass protest participation. Moments of digital enthusiasm demonstrate the power of social media and emotional communication in mass protest mobilization. However, they also highlight the risk of evanescence of collective action in a digital age.


social media activism, emotional contagion, emotion work, Facebook, Egypt, Spain

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