Framing Social Media in Online and Offline Media Coverage

The traditional mass media ascribe great social transformation potential to the social media, often based on prominent case studies in which, for example, civil society actors use digital media to organize their activities (keyword: “Arab Spring”). Even though exaggerated transformation hypotheses are not new, the phenomenon of “social media” is attributed a new dimension of social change power compared to earlier phenomena. It seems like social media will change our whole life and the society in its entirety from scratch. Facts like the vast majority of Germans never having used Twitter are neglected in that kind of media coverage. The divergence between media portrayal and everyday experiences is obvious. It has communicative and social consequences in the social media and beyond, for example when certain networks are “hyped” or profound societal changes are posited in the sense of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Media portrayals of social media shape their perception in and by the society sustainably.

Frames are pivotal in this context. They are characterized by emphasizing certain aspects of social media – for example the users, usage patterns, individual and social functions and effects – while neglecting others. In coverage on new technologies, frames often take the form of (positive) utopias and (negative) dystopias. The project examines which frames dominate the coverage on social media in offline and online versions of traditional media by use of quantitative content analysis. Furthermore, it investigates to what extent the media portrayal of various social media coincides with their usage reality.


Stefan Geiß (JGU Mainz, Germany)
Melanie Magin (JGU Mainz, Germany)
Birgit Stark (JGU Mainz, Germany)

Project Duration