Tags – Social Media as a Political Tool
The use of social media in politics is nothing new.
Given that social media has allowed anyone to become a content creator, with all you need is an internet connection, this increasing use of social media for political gain is not a surprise. In fact, we can even view social media, as the name suggests, a collective form of media that brings people together.
And, as you can imagine, this bringing together element of social media has a similar, if not a higher impact on people that are exposed to it in comparison to other forms of media.
The Overall Social Empowerment
On a positive note, I do not see this use of social media from anyone and everyone as a negative. In its truest form, social media is, somehow, empowering everyone. What this empowerment leads to then constructs the positives and negatives.
For example, if you imagined that the anti vaxxers or flat earthers are anything new, you will be wrong. People have maintained somewhat questionable, if not unintelligent, ideas throughout human history. (If you want to have some further fun reading, check ‘babies do not feel pain’ and that ‘the size and shape of your head is connected to how you behave’).
But, such people were deemed; excuse me for my language; foolish through human existence, at least in the civilised world. However, today, anyone can go online and share their opinions. And, lo and behold, such people find other similar, even if foolish people that share these ideas.
In the simplest way possible, social media, and the internet in general, has amplified every human ejection of ideas and feelings. One such angle is the access to news.
News through Social Media
While a third of young adults were getting their news from social media in 2011, today the overall number of people using social media as their news source stands at and around a whopping 50%. In other specific instances, e.g. in the US, the percentage even touches 55 and over.
Even traditional sources today are reporting that a large proportion of their readers come through social media. However, after years of continued growth, in terms of accessing news through social media, the overall percentage of people using this option is on a decline. The simplest reason for this decline is the rise of fake news, tarnishing the status of social media news as an alternative.
We seem to be finding a balance somewhere between quantity and quality.
An Alternative to Traditional High Quality News
One of the earlier reasons for the rise of news sharing through social media was its accessibility.
To begin, instead of pushing a specific agenda, as is the case with most major, traditional news sources, social media is more of an open field. This meant that not all political powers could utilise traditional sources, but, given the earlier liberalised state of social media, a very specific group of political minds were the first to utilise the social media option.
Here, of course, I am talking of the mid left that showed tendencies to embrace change and technology, which included the use of social media for political gain. However, as the use of the Internet, and hence social media became a part of daily life, social media started to mimic the general social tendencies, i.e. the clash of the far right and left on social media.
And secondly, there are traditional news outlets that are still charging people to access news digitally, even in this day and age. The concept of online ads has not been truly utilised by some, sadly, credible sources of news.
But, I will give social media one credit here: it has turned ‘static democracy’ into ‘participatory democracy’.
More than half the world’s countries are democratic today.
However, the true meaning of democracy, for a long time, was the ability to vote and put people in decision-making positions. From there on, for most people, there was no say in the decision making process, at least until the next elections.
Today, through social media, you will get an earful from every angry voter of yours. Such is the impact of this level of participation in political matters that most politicians actively address their supporters, or even non-supporters, through social media, while getting into arguments with their competition.
We have reached a point in social media political activism where traditional media picks its news through social media interactions. (The biggest example here is, basically, every tweet from Donald Trump that becomes headline news).
And, there is a simple reason for all this.
An Attention Economy
The rise of social media has created a general pattern of events.
Cutting a long story short, and breaking a few ‘good writing practices’, social media has given rise to an attention economy. My excuse is ‘trying to keep this piece short enough’.
Put simply, if you can grab attention, you will do great on social media.
However, this phenomena of grabbing attention is not confined to singularised instances and needs to be maintained. This means that if you want to stay on top of things, you need to keep adding fuel to the cause. As a result, you have a higher chance of slipping up, if you do not play your cards right.
As for the use of social media for political gain, we will, most probably, see a rise in its use in 2020. But, over time, it should find its balance, as with the case of the use of social media for news and social media in general.
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