This study looks at online and offline interactions in relation to the Yugoslav wars,
with an aim to establish which factors lead to cognitive dissonance, deemed a major step towards attitude change about the war and acknowledging the responsibility for the crimes committed by the members of one's own ethnic group, and why. The concept of cognitive dissonance in the context of (post-)conflict societies and dealing with the violent past has been often assumed but seldom properly investigated to date, including the factors that may induce it. The paper considers the role different environments and actors may play in shaping discourses of victimhood, denial, and responsibility in Serbia, as evidence of, what this paper terms as dissonance confirmation and dissonance avoidance. Drawing on the findings of six face-to-face focus groups with adult Serbian population and discourse analysis of interactions on Facebook and Twitter, this paper shows that face-to-face interactions among ordinary people lead the most to dissonance confirmation, whereas interactions on Twitter among members of civil society lead the least. These findings also challenge the critique of civil society that treats it as homogenous and arguments that social media can bring about social change by highlighting often overlooked social media’s limitations.
Dr Sanja Vico is an ERC-funded Postdoctoral Research Officer at the LSE European Institute on the project ‘Justice Interactions and Peacebuilding: From Static to Dynamic Discourses across National, Ethnic, Gender and Age Groups’, led by Dr Denisa Kostovicova, and an Associate of the LSE Research Unit on South East Europe (LSEE). She holds a PhD in Media and Communications from Goldsmiths, University of London, an MSc from the LSE, and a BSc from the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Belgrade. Her research interests include digital media, migration and diaspora, nationalism, identity, cosmopolitanism, post-conflict justice and reconciliation.
Dr Sandra Obradovic is Lecturer in Psychology at The Open University.