The Personal is Political on Social Media: Online Civic Expression Patterns and Pathways Among Civically Engaged Youth

Emily C. Weinstein


Social media have dramatically altered the communication landscape, offering novel contexts for individual expression. But how do youth who are civically engaged off-line manage opportunities for civic expression on social media? Interviews with 70 U.S.-based civic youth aged 15 to 25 revealed three main patterns characterizing the relationship between off-line participation and online expression: blended, bounded, and differentiated. Five sets of empirically derived considerations influencing expression patterns emerged: organizational policies, personal image and privacy, perceived alignment with civic goals, attitudes toward the platform(s), and perceptions of their audience(s). Most civic youth express the civic online, yet a minority highlight tensions that lead them to refrain from sharing in certain or all online contexts.


Civic Engagement; Social Media; Identity; Expression; Youth

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