Abstract

Since 2009, there has been an increase in global protests and related online activity. Yet, it is unclear how and why online activity is related to the mobilization of offline collective action. One proposition is that online polarization (or a relative change in intensity of posting mobilizing content around a salient grievance) can mobilize people offline. The identity-norm nexus and normative alignment models of collective action further argue that to be mobilizing, these posts need to be socially validated. To test these propositions, across two analyses we used digital traces of online behavior and data science techniques to model people’s online and offline behavior around a mass protest. In Study 1a, we used Twitter behavior posted on the day of the protest by attendees or non-attendees (759 users; 7,592 tweets) to train and test a classifier that predicted, with 80% accuracy, who participated in offline collective action. Attendees used their mobile devices to plan logistics and broadcast their presence at the protest. In Study 1b, using the longitudinal Twitter data and metadata of a subset of users from Study 1a (209 users; 277,556 tweets), we found that participation in the protest was not associated with an individual’s online polarization over the year prior to the protest, but it was positively associated with the validation (“likes”) they received on their relevant posts. These two studies demonstrate that rather than being low-cost or trivial, socially validated online interactions about a grievance are actually key to the mobilization and enactment of collective action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-78
Number of pages78
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Publication statusAcceptance date - 11 Dec 2022

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