Working for your own folks: the microeconomics of social media

Razvan Nicolescu*, Shriram Venkatraman, Nell Haynes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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This paper uses a comparative ethnographic approach to explore the ways in which social media enables new economic strategies that capitalize on women's traditional forms of reliance within their local communities. We use ethnographic examples from northern Chile, southeast Italy, and south India to show how women are successful in establishing small but prestigious entrepreneurial activities by using social media to respond to local social and cultural needs. Women use social media to transform both conventional work practices and individuals' notions of work in ways that overcome important structural constraints they face in their respective communities. These findings contrast with optimistic analyses that suggest online platforms decrease global inequalities through bringing disadvantaged people into global economic flows. This article demonstrates the effective ways in which individuals use social media to gradually change local norms related to gender and work while making small but important gains towards economic stability. This process is related to important shifts in sociality that have resulted from social media use within local communities. By focusing on entrepreneurship and gendered aspects of online economic exchange, we develop an understanding of what happens when longstanding expectations for gendered work meet commerce made possible through new media.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cultural Economy
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)168-183
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is based on the authors' research for the project Why We Post funded through European Research Council, grant number ERC-2011-AdG-295486-Socnet.


  • gender
  • micro-economics
  • online entrepreneurs
  • Social media
  • social relations
  • work


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