Citizen (dis)engagement on Social Media: How the Catalan referendum crisis fostered a teflonic Social Media behavior Articles uri icon

publication date

  • February 2021

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 22

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1362-9395


  • This study examines citizens use of social media during the political crisis triggered by the Catalan Referendum. More specifically, we seek to shed more light on Catalan citizens (dis)engagement on social media, examining what citizens did and did not do on social media, who they avoided and/or unfriended, and the implications of such behaviours for democratic citizenship in Spain. Our findings, based on 50 interviews with Catalan citizens, show that despite strong political partisanship, Catalans show little inclination to discuss political issues online and consequently develop what we term a teflonic social media behaviour (TSMB). By implementing these avoidance tactics, they refrain from commenting and sharing political information about the Catalan conflict on social media. Furthermore, when they happen, political discussions are mainly triggered by blatant lies or fabricated content that citizens from both sides of the political spectrum want to confront based on their own real-world experiences. We find that despite the fact that the independence movement has undeniably fuelled social and political conflict, the unfriend button on social media was only used when specific norms of uncivility were breached rather than as a reaction to the mere exposure to dissonant views and opinions.


  • political avoidance; catalan referendum; social media; independence; spain