The banality of WhatsApp: On the everyday politics of backstage activism in Mexico and Spain

Emiliano Treré


Drawing on interviews with social movements and organizations in Mexico and Spain, this paper sheds light on the dynamics of ‘backstage activism’ with a focus on WhatsApp. It illustrates how activists have integrated this app into their media ecologies to reinforce collective identity, cement internal solidarity and lower the pressure of protest. It shows that within WhatsApp groups, campaigners have countered the paranoia experienced in the frontstage of social media exchanging ironical material and intimate messages. It demonstrates that WhatsApp has been used as a robust organizational device and it is now firmly integrated into the mechanisms of organizations and movements. Its communicative affordances (speed, reliability, mobility, multimediality) in conjunction with the omnipresent smartphone are often emphasized. Nuancing characterizations that tend to either disregard its role or stress its negative side, this qualitative exploration foregrounds the banality of WhatsApp. This article unpacks the multiple roles of this app within the submerged practices of movements and organizations.

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