Stopping the Willow Project on Social Media: An Exploration of the Social Problems Process in a Sub-Environmental Issue


  • Sophia Roberts


 The Social Problems Process (SPP), a sociological theoretical model, encompasses an in-depth examination of the stages a social problem (SP) passes through to achieve remediation. This project aims to explore the SPP of the environmental sub-SP of fossil fuel continuation as demonstrated by the Willow Project (WP), an accepted policy that allows for intensive oil drilling in environmentally vulnerable landscapes, contributing to exacerbated climate conditions. The aim of this exploration is to better understand the SPP in contemporary SPs and role of social media. The present study uses qualitative content analysis, emphasizing frequency and themes, of WP-related Instagram posts. A total of forty-four posts were collected and analyzed across two account categories: activist/educational (n=5) and news/informative (n=5). Approximately 86% of the analyzed posts were collected from the activist/education account category (n=38) with primary themes of taking action and animal/environmental consequences. Contrastingly, the news/informative account category produced minimal coverage prioritizing contextual information. These findings support the WP sub-SP passing through the initial three stages of the SPP: claims making, media coverage, and public reaction. This work contributes to filling in the gaps of literature exploring SPs within social media with an acute focus on the connections between environmental SPs, public perception, and youth.