Is it true that we are no longer reliant on the opinions of journalists and gossip columnists to cast their voices over us?
Basing it on my observations and surveys, we instead, broadcast our feelings. We use the Internet arena and express it via text, meme, GIF or video forms for the world to see. Social media has, in essence, transformed the world of politics into a spectator sport – as if it no longer holds any real and genuine relevance. As if it no longer deserves a deeper discussion.
Sometimes it seems that Twitter is a candidate campaign’s main way to communicate his/her message. Facebook breaks the news of who’s representing the political party. Instagram shows real time but often enhanced (so as to look artsy and raw) interactions with the constituents.
I still see the silver lining of the fact that we have relied so much on those platforms. So much that we almost hand them the power to choose who deserves the seat. But are we effectively using it to our benefit?
Guess it’s just timely to discuss social media as a game changer in the field of politics, particularly during elections.
45th US presidential elections
You’ve heard it for sure. The only mantra that Trump used to entice the voters was the phrase ‘Make America great again’. But did it really help him to win the presidential election against such a strong candidate like Hillary Clinton? Not really! So much more has gone into Trump’s winning formula. And obviously, social media played a key role in his victory. It also marked a change in the way election campaigns have been conducted and perceived in the past.
Trump used his Twitter account to create a one-on-one connection with his base.
We have seen previously how various social networks create this kind of intimate connection between celebrities and fans. This is not surprising, but it seems the political realm has caught up with this.
This is a learning tool to create powerful connections between a candidate and their voters to drive enthusiasm and potentially positively impact voter turnout. This is something future candidates can use. Moreover, these online platforms are essential to modern campaigns. Until the rest of the candidates use it against the other – that’s when conflicts arise.
Daniel Halpern et al., in their ‘We Face, I Tweet: How Different Social Media Influence Political Participation through Collective and Internal Efficacy’ study, aims to advance a theoretical model centred on collective and internal efficacy to explain the separate pathways through which political sharing on Facebook and Twitter may influence individuals to engage in political activities.
They found that “frequent usage of Facebook and Twitter for sharing political information is conducive to higher levels of participation through different efficacy measures. Facebook has a significant effect on collective efficacy, whereas Twitter’s effect is on internal efficacy”.
To simply say it, on Facebook, users are willing to intervene and are capable of doing things to improve the community. It means contents that tell a story work well, especially those that can awaken the people’s initiative to act on something relevant. While on Twitter, the belief that one can understand politics and therefore participate in politics is already enough. The mere act of expressing a bit of any information works on the micro-blogging platform. I hope you can identify the difference.
Furthermore, “proponents of citizen deliberation argue that it is through discussion that citizens feel more confident in expressing their ideas, which increases their self-efficacy in political issues, and, consequently, feel more capable of dealing with civic affairs”.
To safely conclude, social media is a confident-booster machine or a deadly avenue. Either way, be careful.
A research, ‘Post-Broadcast Democracy on How Media Choice Increases Inequality in Political Involvement and Polarizes Elections’, has found that consuming news makes people more likely to vote. Which means, the people (both online and offline) should benefit from the presence of more information sources. But, in the absence of a tool to measure its impact – we don’t know yet exactly how social media platforms influence its consumers.
At the end of the day, it falls under your own judgment which candidate deserves your vote.
Before this month ends, the Kingdom of Cambodia will have its national election. This is just a reminder that social media presence both matter and doesn’t matter – it is both a distraction and an enhancement. It can make or break your candidate of choice. It can taint somebody’s well-kept image. It can, ultimately, destroy an entire candidacy. It’s up to you how you will let it affect your perception of the people running for office.
May you go out and choose what’s socially correct and who’s socially aware – regardless of his/her social media reach.