BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) – First News at Four previously talked about how the U.S. and Russia are using social media to shape people’s perceptions of the war in Ukraine. To further that conversation, Nathan Crick, a professor in Texas A&M’s Department of Communication, returned to First News at Four to dissect the spread of information during the war.
“We always tend to think that something is very new because of the way the technology is used and when we put it in the context of history, we can see of course, that there’s a great deal of similarities and continuity with the past,” explained Crick.
People in past used many different ways to communicate information during war.
The visual element of today’s social media can be seen looking back all the way back to the American Revolution. Paul Revere made a famous copperplate etching of the Boston Massacre which helped spark revolutionary sentiment in the United States. During the Civil War, the rise of photography had a huge impact.
The narrative structure of TikTok and Instagram accounts showing the war can be traced back to the Italian Revolution with transcendentalist Margaret Fuller and George Orwell reporting from the top of buildings during the Blitz during World War II.
Crick believes the link between these methods of information is “all of them are trying to capture sort of the live event of what it means to suffer war.”
This is seen even today in Ukrainians’ use of social media like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter, but there is a difference from the past in who has access to media, how immediate it is, how vivid it is, and the tone of the media.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has used social media to speak from a place of representation. Crick points out that this is why Zelenskyy is often seen in a green t-shirt rather than a suit even when addressing Congress and other political bodies.
“He has dressed down in a way to show that I’m suffering with you,” explained Crick.
Average citizens have also used social media to feel a sense of community with other people in Ukraine, and some people are changing the tone of media during war.
Jokes, irony, and dark humor have been used by Ukrainians in defiance of Russia’s invasion. Crick gives the example of people in a bomb shelter making videos with a sense of humor so others in a similar situation will feel less alone.
This is “something that people in the blitz in World War II in London were never able to share,” Crick points out.
In the past Russia has used social media to its advantage, spreading propaganda and misinformation, but so far in the war fought online, Ukraine is winning through its deglamorization of war for outsiders and the creation of a sense of unity for its citizens.
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