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Hon Research Studies Social Media Use in the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice

Linda Hon
Linda Hon

The use of social media for enhancing a social movement’s reach has become standard, but few examples demonstrate its potency as well as the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice. Million Hoodies was formed as an online action network following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman and includes more than 50,000 members and college chapters across the United States.

University of Florida Professor Linda Hon, Ph.D., conducted a study examining digital activism, framing and social media communication within the movement. Hon’s work especially emphasizes how digital media provide the opportunity for minority groups to bring issues they face to the attention of the broader public, the mainstream news media and policy makers.

To understand the way in which social media helped build awareness and action, Hon used framing theory to analyze individual posts and supporting content on the Million Hoodies’ Facebook page. The method of analysis posits three frames—diagnostic, prognostic and motivational. Diagnostic refers to the identification of a problem and assignment of blame, which Million Hoodies framed as the racism and injustice African-American men face at the hands of U.S. law enforcement. Solidarity and gun control fell into the category of prognostic frames, or those suggesting strategies and solutions, while the motivational frame, or rationale for action, was filled by calls for offline participation in protest events.

Million Hoodies also used social media to align the Trayvon Martin case with other examples of mistreatment of African Americans by law enforcement and to amplify its campaign by keeping supporters invigorated throughout the up-and-down events of the Martin-Zimmerman saga. Following Zimmerman’s acquittal, Million Hoodies began to extend and transform its framing to broader issues of police militarization and mass incarceration. Hon concluded that core framing and alignment processes are an effective way for researchers to understand the way in which online content creators, such as leaders of social movements, use strategic messaging to connect with followers, broaden their base of support and incite action.

“The circumstances surrounding Trayvon Martin’s death were a turning point for activism in the United States,” said Hon. “The success of Million Hoodies as well as the Black Lives Matter movement, which also stemmed from the Martin case, demonstrates the potential of social media for grassroots organizing among citizens.”


Posted: January 15, 2016
Category: Research News
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