Digital Activism: How Social Media Prevalence has Impacted Modern Activism

Date of Award


Author Requested Restriction

Open Access (no embargo, no restriction)

Work Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Asao B Inoue

Second Advisor

Emily Noelle Sanchez Ignacio


Social media has brought significant changes to all spheres of our social existence, particularly modern activism. While many researchers have analyzed the use of social media in activist movements, there has been little scholarly work on the impacts and implications of social media, particularly as they pertain to language and the values underpinning activism. This thesis seeks to fill this gap in social media studies. Based on the theories of Stuart Hall and Kenneth Burke, it analyzes recent activist movements and social media trends in modern activism through a sociocultural/rhetorical lens. Specifically, within the context of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the #occupywallstreet movement, this thesis examines the manner in which values and action are both constructed and enacted. I also examine the complex relationship between content and content creators, social media’s influence on production and consumption, and the potential risks social media presents when used as a means for activism. By providing a comprehensive analysis of the sociocultural and rhetorical impacts social media has had in these movements, this thesis aims to highlight the risks of using social media for activism as well as the importance of media literacy to us all.