Social Media Logic and Emotional Mobilization: A Study of Zelensky’s Twitter Communication during 2022 Russian-Ukrainian Conflict


  • Wengcong Diao Shanghai International Studies University, China
  • Haihua Zhang Beijing Language and Culture University, China


2022 Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Zelensky, Twitter communication, wartime propaganda, emotional mobilization


Modern wartime propaganda is increasingly influenced by social media. The Russian-Ukrainian conflict has opened up a cyberwar of discursive gaming beyond the military front. The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has used Twitter as a crucial tool for communicating with the world. This choreographed propaganda mechanism has helped foster a conducive atmosphere for gaining international support, and at the same time makes Zelensky’s Twitter communication practice a classic case for studying the dynamic relationship between social media and emotional mobilization. Therefore, this paper cuts through the theoretical lens of mediatization and analyzes the tweets posted by Zelensky throughout 2022 using a combination of content analysis and textual analysis. It is found that (1) a narrative of compassion becomes one of Zelensky’s key strategies for mobilizing global public emotions. Ukraine in Zelensky's discourse is not a dehumanized “other” without any subjectivity. Instead, Russia’s aggression is directly portrayed as a trauma to the flesh and blood for the West. (2) the emotions disclosed in Zelensky’s tweets are generally positive. He refuses to immerse himself in the grief of Ukraine’s loss, preferring instead to use a rigid tone to unite the population at home, with impassioned words calling for resistance. (3) Zelensky is consciously constructing an ideological alliance that believes deeply in Western values such as liberal democracy and is resisting restrictions on Russia in every way. He continually emphasizes Ukraine’s political and cultural identity as a future member of the European Union and presents an international image of solidarity through performative Twitter engagements with world heads of state on Twitter. Despite these findings, this study unexpectedly finds that Zelensky’s practice shows more features of mass communication than that of social media, whose logic is supposed to prompt him to employ stronger emotion when it comes to controlling public opinion. He is a solemn president dedicated to public diplomacy rather than a politician who makes a big deal out of the trivial details of the war. This leads to the conclusion that even in the war scenario of the 2022 crisis, Zelensky’s emotional mobilization strategy was actually relatively restrained and conservative.


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Social Media and Emotional Mobilization – Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches