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From horror to indifference: why online protests light up and fade so quickly
19 January 2021, 14:20
From horror to indifference: why online protests light up and fade so quickly
Experts in the field of political psychology have found out the mechanisms of the emergence and decay of protest movements in social networks.

Scientists from the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow State University and the Higher School of Economics conducted a study in the field of political psychology, the results of which they published in the article "New social movements in the network era". Experts studied the nature of modern, mainly networked protest movements, answering, among other things, the question: why protests on social networks as easily arise as they fade away, do not ultimately lead to any significant socio-political changes in the country... Summarizing the work of scientists in his blog, journalist Pavel Pryanikov outlined the main conclusions that can be drawn from this work:

1. All those who are inclined to "asocial" behavior are no longer excluded from society as a kind of "asocial element", but are united into communities in which they easily institutionalize their demonstrative non-recognition of social norms, using social networks.

2. This new phenomenon is taking place in a community where extremist tendencies are both welcomed as ideas and disapproved as a method of problem solving. As a result, everything ends with the so-called "network extremism." This paradox is then resolved by dividing into the “disenfranchised” (for example, starving people, Russians, African Americans, sexual minorities, people excluded from public politics, etc.) and their “ideological representatives”.

3. This is the difference between the protest communication system and the traditional one, which includes the struggle for power, for money, for truth, and so on. The new protest environment appeals to "bodily", "physiological" forms of certifying their significance, for example, to violence, to consumption, to sexuality.

4. It is also curious that protest network systems are based, among other things, on the ability to feel fear for another, which was practically unthinkable earlier at the level of the individual psyche. This phenomenon includes the constant accumulation and transportation of fears from one participant in the movement to another, and in addition - neutralization and overcoming of the deep traditional attitude, which prohibits men from showing their fears. It is this “additional” emotion of substitutionary fear that makes it possible to integrate large protest communities.

It is fear, because of its emotional strength, incomparably more powerful in comparison with other emotions, that acts as a mechanism that makes possible "winding up" and social "excitement", as a result - an interested discussion. Studying a new protest today means identifying specific mechanisms of fear accumulation and communicative levels of “fear transmission” (interactive, mass media, social network...)

5. Protest topics are capable of unrestrainedly spinning positive feedback mechanisms, avalanche-like grabbing public attention (primarily in the mass media, but also engaging the legal system). None of the “old” (mostly prohibitive) communication control mechanisms stop this flow, also because the overwhelming party does not understand the degree of trauma (neurotization) of the participants in the network protest.

6. This is precisely the weakness of the network protest, since the protest topic, having reached a certain inflationary limit, begins to "get bored", losing its "novelty" and going into the "entertainment" sector.

The experts further list the stages of neurotized network protest:

- Nervousness, which is characterized by capriciousness (a person is dissatisfied with everything and everyone), instability of mood, conflict;

- Strong stenicity, the signs of which are growing irritability (it is accompanied by a loss of self-control, a decrease in self-criticism and an increase in intolerance to the shortcomings of others), as well as tension in anticipation of trouble.

- Asthenia, which is accompanied by a decrease in mood, anxiety, self-doubt, severe vulnerability.

The main conclusion from all this is disappointing for participants in online protests, since old political systems, such as the Russian one, can easily oppose them, simply by waiting for them to fizzle out to the third stage...