82 | 27, pp. 81-97 | doxa.comunicación

July-December of 2018

Social media and the political-civic participation of young people. A review of the digital citizenship debate

ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978


Concern regarding apathy, disaffection and scepticism of the society toward conventional politics, especially among young people, together with the perceived preference of this group for digital media, have led academics to conduct research to determine the extent to which the opportunities for participation offered by social media can influence civic and political engagement and behaviour. This article examines research related to this subject that has been published since the beginning of the current century for the purpose of identifying the salient elements of the debate regarding the role of social media in the development of digital citizenship.


Digital citizenship, youth, social media, political and civic participation.

Recibido: 12/09/2018 - Aceptado: 30/09/2018


La preocupación por la apatía, desafección y escepticismo hacia la política convencional por parte de la sociedad en general y de los jóvenes en particular, junto con la percepción de las preferencias de estos últimos por los medios digitales, han llevado a los académi-cos a investigar en qué medida las oportunidades de participación que ofrecen los medios sociales pueden influir en el compromiso y comportamiento cívico y político. Este artículo examina las inves-tigaciones publicadas sobre el tema en este siglo con el objetivo de identificar los elementos claves del debate en torno al papel de los medios sociales en el desarrollo de la llamada ciudadanía digital.

Palabras clave:

Ciudadanía digital; jóvenes; medios sociales; participación política y cívica.

Received: 12/09/2018 - Accepted: 30/09/2018

1. Introduction

The scarce or non-existent interest in political affairs or actions by individuals, which depends on civic involvement for its success, has been pointed out repeatedly on several fronts, not only during the successive electoral processes of the most entrenched and traditional democracies, but also with numerous investigations that have been carried out from this perspective. Two examples of this situation are evident in each of the surveys conducted by the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS): on one hand, the 2005 report on participation pointed out that 69.7% of the population claimed to have little or no interest in politics; while on the other hand, the 2016 survey concluded that almost half of Spaniards say they pay little or no attention to international news; these figures show little optimism considering that the world is at the peak of globalization and participatory inclusion in digital social media.

The use of new technologies in political participation and civic involvement has been the focus of debate, as the widespread growth of social networks has become a decisive feature of horizontality in the exercise of citizenship, which is a key aspect that has been reviewed in several investigations that have identified the degree of success of numerous civic movements. Furthermore, on many occasions, these studies have shown a before and after for the involvement of the individual in the problems that affect a social environment characterized by discontent and dissatisfaction with the political agenda and decisions made by its representatives. Through a review of the literature of the most relevant scientific publications of the current century, this article examines the core structure of the debate regarding the effect of digital communication on political and civic participation.

The first section addresses the transformation of citizen participation, highlighting both the innovations as well as the aspects that remain unchanged with the spread of digital communication and its adoption in political and civic areas. In the second section, the significance of social media is analysed by using specific examples of political and social