Public social media is conservative
The public-facing areas of social media platforms, such as Facebook Timelines, tend to be conservative, and in many of our research sites people avoid political postings. By contrast more private social media, such as WhatsApp, may be used to facilitate (sometimes radical) social change.
Similarly, content posted on Facebook is very conservative in our Italian fieldsite, with people trying to only express opinions that will be approved of by others.
Here postings on social media also tend to be conservative, but the reason is less concern about surveillance but rather a reflection of the values of this traditional area. People believe that it is better to use social media to give new meaning to traditional celebrations, such as those associated with babies.
In addition to surveillance by family and individuals, the type of content people share on social media is controlled by the gaze of other members of a person’s caste. A problematic post might bring dishonour to the entire caste, an important social unit in India.
As with several of our fieldsites, private social media such as WhatsApp is the place where radical or illicit material, such as sharing pornographic materials by women, can now circulate more easily, making this often a very liberal space.
In our English and Trinidadian fieldsites, things are less conservative with regard to politics, mainly because there is considerable use of humour. With political posts, as long as the content is funny, people generally won’t take offence
Finally, public social media is conservative here for a very different reason. People don’t want to be seen as showing off, or as trying to be too different, so most people post the same kinds of content.