Youth, Facebook and politics in South Africa | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 5, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-199X
  • E-ISSN: 1751-7974



Social networking sites, Facebook in particular, are growing in popularity in South Africa. With the increasing affordability of mobile handsets, users are able to access the mobile Internet and connect via mobile social networking applications. This article explores how Facebook is used by South African youth, with particular reference to their political participation and involvement. Research has shown the declining involvement of young people in political processes, particularly since democratic elections in 1994. This is an international trend, with a general global rise of political apathy and decreased news consumption among youth. However, Facebook and other new media applications widely used by young people have been seen as a potential vehicle to re-engage youth in political debate. The potential usefulness of such applications for creating networked publics and mobilizing political action was highlighted recently during the Arab Spring; and conversely, Facebook and Twitter have been used (e.g. in the United States) to target potential youth voters. The notion of e-democracy has raised the potential of the Internet to enhance political action and activism. The article draws on a national quantitative survey and Cape Town-based focus groups with South African youth in order to explore the links between Facebook use and political participation. The article argues that youth are engaging with alternative forms of political subactivism that work at the margins of the dominant public sphere.


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