THE ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN CREATING POLITICAL AWARENESS AND MOBILIZING POLITICAL PROTESTS : A Focus on Turkey
Abstract: In the recent years, the internet penetration, social media production and consumption have increased dramatically all over the world. This increase has affected the politics in most parts of the world in many ways. Social media became a tool for politicians to carry out their political campaigns and for activists to create awareness on political issues and mobilize protests. Today almost in all social movements in the countries with high rate of internet access, the role of social media is being discussed. Social media has become a costless and extremely effective tool in reaching mass audiences with political purposes. This thesis research focuses on the strength of social media in creating political awareness and mobilizing political protests in Turkey. In this study the recent social movements in Turkey are examined as case studies, to understand the role of social media in political movements, to be able to make predictions for the future. The prob-lem was approached with combining qualitative and quantitative research methods. Literature review regarding the subjects related to the social media and politics and information flow in social networks was conducted. After that, two interviews, a sur-vey and a social network analysis to comprehend the role of social media in the two recent major social movements in Turkey, Gezi Parki Protests and Internet Censor-ship Protests, were carried out. Depending on the results from research methods conducted, it was found that social media has already become a fundamental part of social movements in Turkey. The young generation in Turkey is extremely interested in joining online social networks. These social networks establish connections between people that are related with weak ties. These connections enable political information to flow on these networks virally, costless and rapidly. Information can be on political news or thoughts to cre-ate political awareness and also to mobilize political protests. These advantages of social media combined with biased and ignorant attitude of mainstream media on po-litical events; social media created an alternative source of information in the eyes of the society. Considering the increasing internet penetration, smart phone and social media use for political purposes, the strength of social media in creating political awareness and mobilizing political protests is expected to rise in the future as well.
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