Social media: The new opiate of the masses?


  • Emad Khazraee
  • Kristene Unsworth



This study argues that the relationship between new information and communication technologies (ICT) and social movements should be done from a socio-technical perspective. In the present study, we broaden this perspective and use Actor-Network Theory (ANT) to better understand the relationship between social media (as a new ICT) and social movements. From the perspective of ANT, one cannot define unidirectional causal relationships between the social and the technical. New technical developments create opportunities to change the social order and in the meantime technologies are transformed and are adapted differently by humans. Preliminary findings examining the use of Facebook among Iranians, applying the aforementioned relational sociology perspective based on ANT, suggest that the role new ICTs play in social movements and social change is not linear and constant through time. The impact of new ICTs might be different considering different stages in a social movement timeline. In fact, there may be a stage where ICTs actually function as a sort of pressurerelease value, allowing individuals to remain content within the status quo rather than choosing to pursue more radical goals. We propose the utilization of the two concepts of “durability” and “mobility”, from ANT literature, to better understand the potential of online social networking technologies for social change. We suggest three different time stages as short (emergence of movements), mid (development or decline of movements), and late stage (the movement’s continuation, survival or disappearance through time) to be considered in the study of relationship between social media and social change.




How to Cite

Khazraee, Emad, and Kristene Unsworth. 2012. “Social Media: The New Opiate of the Masses?”. The International Review of Information Ethics 18 (December). Edmonton, Canada:49-59.