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Comunicar Journal 68: Networks, social movements and their myths in a hyperconnected world (Vol. 29 - 2021)

The hero and the shadow: Myths in digital social movements


The general subject of this analysis is the presence of myths on social media, a heritage of the previous century’s mass culture, and in particular, for social movements. Social movements within networked communication are particularly endowed with mythologies, which draw on mass culture and on societies’ archetypal and psychological backgrounds. This fact justifies the hypothesis that the most effective and popular social movements resort to deeper mythological forms. The specific objective is to describe concrete myths in the language of digital social movements and to review the aspects of mythology in the scholarly literature on mythology from four fields. After tracing contents and impact, a qualitative analysis, focused on two examples justified by their digital origin, is performed: the “Anonymous” movement and “Je Suis Charlie” social mobilisation. Results show the persistence of two mythological motives: the profound hero’s monomyth, playing an essential identifying role, channelled through social networks, with hashtags as slogans, and the related myth of the shadow, the dark, “Anonymous” and hybrid identity. Connections and analogies with other recent examples are discussed ?such as the “Me Too” and “Black Lives Matter” cases?. The conclusion is the clear connection between these two myths and the communicative strength of social movements transmitted through social networks.