English Journal Article

Slava Ukraini: Exploring Identity Activism in Support of Ukraine via the Ukraine Flag Emoji on Twitter

Journal of Quantitative Description: Digital Media, Vol. 3 (2023) |


Identity Activism is a new phenomenon afforded by the massive popularity of social media. It consists of the prominent display of a social movement symbol within a space reserved for description of the self. The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine provides a contemporary (yet unfortunate) opportunity to observe this phenomenon. Here, we introduce and explore this concept in the context of the recent Twitter trend of displaying the Ukraine flag emoji in bios and names to signal support of Ukraine. We explore several questions, including: how has the popularity of this trend changed over time, are users who display the flag more likely to be connected to others who do, and what types of users are and are not participating. We find that Ukraine flag emoji prevalence in both names and bios increased many-fold in late February 2022, with it becoming the 11th most prevalent emoji in bios and the 3rd most prevalent emoji in names during March. We also find evidence that users who display the flag in their bio or name are more likely to follow and be followed by others who also do so, as compared to users who do not. Finally, we observe that users who share politically left-leaning messages were most likely to display the emoji. Those who share account information from alternative social media sites and non-personal accounts appear least likely. These findings give us insight into how users participate in Identity Activism, what connections exist between participating users, and, in this particular case, what types of users participate.