Have you ever been involved in activism on behalf of a particular candidate or cause? If you have, what inspired you to do so? If you have not, what might motivate you? Do you think a direct message on Twitter from another teenager could bring you into the fold?

Dana Depelteau, a hotel manager, had just gone public with a long-shot candidacy for mayor in Boston when he noticed that someone in city politics was going after him online.

The effect of this attack, he said, was lightning-fast and pervasive. The morning after he announced his candidacy on Twitter, he showed up at his local barbershop and, while staring at himself in the mirror, overheard a customer describing his views as white supremacist.

“I’m thinking, ‘Man, politics is dirty,’” recalled Mr. Depelteau. He rushed home to fire back at his critic, a sharp-edged progressive who had dug up some of Mr. Depelteau’s old social media posts and was recirculating them…

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