Social Media Increases Participation of Nicaraguan Youth in Social Justice Causes


A recent study of FUNIDES, the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development, concludes that Nicaraguan youth support causes and mobilizations through the social networks.

Young Nicaraguans say they don’t belong to traditional organizations because they are unaware of them.

By Franklin Villavicencio  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The social networks in Nicaragua are the principal platforms used by youth to support social justice causes and mobilizations. This was the principal revelation of the recent study: “How the youth get information and how they participate,” presented by the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development, or FUNIDES.

The study, carried out by researchers Donald Munoz and Mario Narvaez, utilized several different methodologies, including online surveys, with responses from 924 young people between 16 and 29, and a series of focus groups in several departments of the country, including Granada, Masaya, Leon and Carazo.

The investigation concluded that only 35.1% of Nicaraguan youth participate in the traditional groups, spaces and platforms. Of these participants, 34.7% belong to organizations; 23% to student groups; 18.2% to movements mobilizing around a cause; and in last place, 13.9% participate via political parties.

The unaffiliated young people generally affirm that they don’t join the traditional organizations because they aren’t aware of them.

Those most involved in the political movements are male (16.3%), while women have a greater presence in the non-governmental organizations (37.3%).  For Liliam Huelva, director of the social and institutional branch of Funides, involving more youth in these spaces through new messaging is another of the challenges that the political and social organizations must meet.

“(In the study) we asked the young people why they don’t participate in these (traditional) spaces, and they responded that they didn’t know about them and don’t have time. That was the predominant answer, making up more or less 70 percent of the reasons given for their non-participation in these movements,” postulated Liliam Huelva in an interview on the nightly television show Esta Noche. [“Tonight”].

The participation of young people in the digital spaces is greater.  Sixty-two percent of them promote social causes through their networks. These posting include denunciations of crimes, requests for funding, and support for projects involving social mobilization.

Nicaraguan young people use the social networks more than online media to receive news and information.

“We can see that there are kids who haven’t participated (in the traditional programs) but who have promoted something via their social networks. So that’s a group that the organizations could rally to their causes and support their transition from digital participation to a more active involvement,” asserted Liliam.

The study demystifies the “apathy” that has been attributed to this new generation.

This is one of the areas of focus for Funides: using the data to create a guide for “developing new practices that promote civic engagement in the youth.”

Despite the fact that this data was obtained in September 2017 when the debate about regulating social media had still not been introduced, “it’s interesting to note the presence of young people on the digital platforms. Any efforts to control this media could go against the way that these new generations are expressing themselves,” commented Liliam Huelva.

How the youth inform themselves

Another aspect of the investigation involved the alternative communications media used by the youth.

Forty-one percent of youthful Nicaraguans between 16 and 29 are unaware of the web platforms that have arisen in the last few years.  Media such as the web-based dramatic series Managua Furiosa, the magazine Niu, and the blog Politicamente Incorrecto are some of the alternatives to the traditional communications media that were evaluated in this study.

Young Nicaraguans get their information more through social networks than through digital media.

Around 58 percent of the youth in Nicaragua, however, do utilize some of these sites. This data “suggests that these new means of communication still need to achieve a firm placement among the youth segments.”

Which format is most consumed?

The principal means utilized by young Nicaraguans to obtain information are the social networks. Forty-two percent of them affirm that they learn what’s happening in Nicaragua through these platforms. The second channel for information is the digital newspapers, consulted by 18%; television, also with 18%; web pages at 8% and traditional newspapers at 4%.

The study demystifies the “apathy” of the younger generations.

“This indicates that the activities of digital communication and information are welcomed by the youth of Nicaragua,” the investigation indicated.

Young Nicaraguans also show a preference for certain formats. The one most preferred are short videos (33.1%) and newspaper articles (21.4%). To Liliam Huelva, this translates into the fact that the youth consume text as much as they do images.

The participants in this investigation arrived at the conclusion that “The messages aren’t proving compatible with our interests. They need to be simpler, more creative, with more graphics.” To the Funides team, this is a priority. “If the organizations have an interest in positioning certain themes within the social networks, they should have the capacity to adapt these messages to them,” concluded Lilliam Huelva.