I was interviewed yesterday by Sorcha Pollak of the Irish Times for the In the News podcast. We discussed the role of social media during the Twelfth of July parades in Northern Ireland. In a wide-ranging conversation, we explored how sectarian discourses circulate via online platforms during the Twelfth. While humorous content, such as the Steeple Defenders band wearing alien outfits, might have raised a smile among social media watchers, images of effigies being burnt on bonfires drew much criticism. There was also much online discussion about a video showing a man throwing a bin at a group of marchers, and the subsequent altercation which saw several bandsmen smash the windows of his house.
Drawing on the findings from my book on social media, parades and protest in Northern Ireland, I suggested that these platforms could also be used to moderate tensions and expose people to the views of people they ordinarily wouldn’t mix with offline. However, the emotive content amplified by these sites tends to reinforce views on contentious issues such as parading. People don’t tend to change their minds as a result of watching these events unfold in real-time on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Many thanks to Aideen, Sorcha and the team for the invitation to discuss my research. The podcast can be accessed here (my contribution begins at approximately 12:00).