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The current political landscape and the continued rise of social media has us asking the question, "does social media and politics benefit each other?" Do the two result in a more transparent and democratic government? Or does it result in lies, deceit, and terror? In order to analyze this question, we are going to focus on two different facets, social media as a tool for politicians to interact with their constituents, and social media as a tool for news.
How Politicians Can Use Social Media
The power of social media in the hands of politicians is immense indeed, and can be used for good and evil. Mayor Cory Booker effectively uses social media repeatedly. During a blizzard in the northeast in 2010, Booker searched #snowpocalypse on Twitter and engaged with individuals that were in his area. His team even went out to check on individuals and shovel streets. Booker once stated, “Twitter is truly an effective way to connect with the body politic.” What does he mean by that? Well for one, social media is a way to connect citizens and people in power. We have all heard people complain about how they cannot connect with their elected officials, but a good politician could use social media to remedy this issue. Senator Booker isn't the only politician to utilize social media for grassroots efforts, but he is one of the first. In fact, most high level politicians are adept at Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as all live video posts. Senator Elizabeth Warren is known to post live videos and even pushed #ShePersisted viral after being silenced by Mitch McConnell.
Politicians can reach not only their current constituents, but they can also run a campaign through it. Donald Trump’s campaign team ran one of the most impressive social media campaigns of all time. They connected with the “everyday” and working class population, which came out in droves to vote for him. The beauty of these example posts above are their accessibility to the mind of a citizen. “Donald Trump is visiting workers that make air conditioners? He clearly cares about the working man / woman.” Trump also doesn’t care about grammar or sounding proper, which again connects with his target audience.
Social Media and Political News
You would think that social media makes politics more transparent, but the opposite can take hold. The rise of fake news and bait-click advertisements has resulted in a lot of false info being tossed around on social media. All of these lies can alter the way people view laws, politicians, or our government as a whole. A person may be able to reach out and connect with someone they want to vote for them, but can a truthful news report be properly shared on social media?
Furthermore, politics is such a hot button issue, that many people are overwhelmed by the amount of political news they see on social media. The Pew Research Center has found that 4 in 10 social media users have taken steps to block political content they see on their screens. The people that do see political content though, don't just ignore it. The same Pew Research Center study found that 20% of social media users have changed their stance on political issues due to content they saw on social media. What if they changed their stance due to news that was false or misleading? This is where the virality of social media can result in the spread of lies, ultimately resulting in a toxic relationship between the internet and politics.
Not all is lost when it comes to the link between politics and social media. While false news can spread and politicians can preach lies, people in power can conduct amazing grassroots efforts and connect with their constituents. The power of social media also enables citizens to hold their government employees accountable for their actions. If you want to let your congressman know about a particular law and why she/he should vote a certain way, you can do that on social media. If a major event takes place, you can also use social media to rally the people around you to create a protest or enact positive change. All of these things make social media a wonderful tool when it comes to shaping our government in a positive way, we just have to be aware of the lies and deceit that can come out of it.
What do you think? Do you feel like social media and politics mutually benefit each other? Make sure to comment below or email us. We would love to hear from you!