This article focuses on the study of online communities and introduces an empirical study of social media production involving an online group called “Arab Canadians”. The study builds on Anderson’s concept of ‘imagined communities’ and argues that Facebook provides the platform for an online nation in which users, whether Canadians or prospective immigrants, interact and exchange ideas about a country whose imagined concept varies from one user to another. Facebook here is a virtual nation that offers the community members an imagined sense of identity and belonging which they aspire to get. The results of the study revealed that the majority of comments carry highly positive sentiments towards Canada and its people, yet there is evidence that some comments are moderated. The study concludes that the Facebook administrator functions as a centralized gatekeeper who filters online chatter and leads the discussion to a certain direction. Building on the theory of networked gatekeeping, the study argues that vertical and horizontal flows of communication shape the online debate that takes place in this virtual space. Through a close analysis of these practices, the article sheds light on the role of social media in shaping online identities constructed around virtual nationhood.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Arab Canadians, Facebook, Networked gatekeeping, Online community, Social networking sites
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00146-017-0742-3, hdl.handle.net/1765/109447
Journal AI and Society
Citation
Al-Rawi, A.K. (2017). Facebook and virtual nationhood: social media and the Arab Canadians community. AI and Society, 1–13. doi:10.1007/s00146-017-0742-3