Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors


School of Teacher Education and Leadership


It seems as if almost everything in our world has changed with the introduction of the internet, personal computers, iPhones, and social media. We write emails instead of letters. We listen to podcasts and read articles online instead of buying a newspaper. Presidents communicate with the world on Twitter. The way we engage with politics has entirely changed. Yet, we are still going about civic education in schools the same way, teaching students to give speeches in city council meetings, write letters to their representative, and find current events from traditional news sources. This study offers new statistical evidence that the way people interact with social movements, how they rise to lead them, and who it is that gets to lead has all started to change in correlation with onset of widespread social media use. This study looks at the socioeconomic status (i.e., a combination of their education, job prestige, and income) of the leaders of social movements, showing that on average their status has lowered since politics has moved to be increasingly conducted online. We are seeing a wider age-range in social movement leadership as leaders operate behind screens. This study also looks at two case studies to decipher the differences between movements that started before social media and movements that began after the most common platforms were already in place. The change is happening, and it’s time it reached our schools as well.



Faculty Mentor

Ryan Knowles

Departmental Honors Advisor

Scott Hunsaker