What Social Media Could Be: Normative Frameworks for Evaluating Digital Public Spaces

Masullo, Gina M.; Wilner, Tamar; Stroud, Natalie Jomini
Social Media + Society

Increasing attention has been placed to the societal downsides of social media, and appropriately so. Less attention has been paid to the qualities to which social media should aspire. We contend that this is critically important. Not only must social media, and social media scholars, identify and reduce negative outcomes, but we must also critically engage with what is desirable. The purpose of this theoretical essay is to propose a normative framework for digital public spaces. We lay out four categories, and 14 sub-categories, of normative ideals to which social media could aspire. It is our hope that chronicling these qualities will allow scholars to more critically reflect on their normative assumptions when they research social media and will encourage practitioners to think about how social media could be built with these ideals in mind.