Politics Undercover: Social Media, Entertainment and Adolescents

Online event - Zoom
Wednesday 26 May 2021 (15:00-16:00)

The political socialization of today’s youth takes place in a hybrid media environment. Social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok and entertainment fiction series are part of this multi-faceted media landscape and constitute an integral part of adolescents’ lives.

During the many hours per day that adolescents spend watching TV and videos and/or using social media, there is no shortage of opportunities for them to learn from the messages they are being exposed to. The emergence of new social media actors (i.e., influencers), platforms (e.g., TikTok), and the proliferation of streaming services such as Netflix or HBO are changing the media landscape in which adolescents’ political development is taking place.

In recent decades, worries have been expressed regarding the seemingly decreasing political engagement on the part of young people and declining consumption of traditional news media often blamed on entertainment media. However, through their representations of politics, tinted depictions of the political world and portrayal of politically-relevant values, entertainment fiction and social media can also play an important role in contributing to youth’s political socialization.

Anaëlle’s PhD project proposes to tackle the gaps on political socialization in the new and hybrid media environment by adding novel explanatory insights on the role of social media and entertainment fiction in adolescents’ political socialization. It introduces a framework that integrates (social) media effects literature with political science and psychology literature. The PhD project is part of the ERC starting grant project “Malleability in Mediated Ideals” (MIMIc) which aims to understand the extent to which the representations of ideals present in the media (e.g., social media, movies and music) exert an influence on adolescents’ well-being and beliefs in France, Belgium and Slovenia.

Through content analytical research on influencers’ social media content and youth-oriented fiction series, a well-detailed structure on how to understand the explicit and implicit political cues presented in adolescents’ favourite social media spaces is being developed. These insights will fuel a longitudinal study among adolescents that examines how and when adolescents are directly and indirectly politically socialized when consuming social media and entertainment fiction.

Anaëlle Gonzalez is a PhD student at the Leuven School for Mass Communication Research (KU Leuven) under the supervision of Professor Laura Vandenbosch. Previously, she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at the University of Tours, France, and the University of Calgary, Canada. In 2019, she obtained a Master’s degree in Political Psychology of International Relations at the University of Birmingham, UK.

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