Social media has quickly become one of the most powerful platforms on the planet for marketing, networking and social connection. With billions of users across the planet and several social media websites, it is hard, if not impossible, to mitigate the extreme impact that these internet networks have had on the world. These trends have been building for decades, starting with small user bases on sites like Myspace and Facebook, that have now been built into the monstrosities we know as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
While these trends have been building faster and faster, a new trend has emerged recently, with perhaps more impact than others. That trend is social media in politics. The fact that is relatively new comes as perhaps no surprise, as politics are often dominated by men and women much older than the primary users of social media. While it seems this group of powerful and older people held out for as long as they could, slowly the power of social media mandated that these people become proficient in its use. It is indeed one of the best ways to get ideas out to a large amount of people in an incredibly short period of time. As a result some people in the government have become incredibly proficient, and even proliferous in their use of social media.
A perfect example of this phenomenon is our current president, Donald Trump. Trump has become famous for, among a multitude of other things, his use of Twitter. Trump has used Twitter to voice his opinions for a long time, bypassing more official, and often what would be much more censored avenues of communication. He has been both praised and criticized for this use of social media, as many politicians are.
Yet one thing is for certain, social media is a great way to reach a voter base on a more personal level, something which seems to matter almost more than platform or ideals. Take for example the 2010 race in Massachusetts in which Martha Coakley and Scott Brown were both running for a senate seat. Martha Coakley was a shoe in, or so she thought, and as such did very little campaigning, Scott however, campaigned as much as he possibly could. Despite being at a disconnect with many voter’s platform wise, he won the election by a landslide. While this is not an example of using social media, it is an example of what connecting with your constituents can do for a campaign, and social media offers an incredibly efficient way to connect with voters.
In that light, it is easy to see why social media is quickly becoming a preferred platform of announcement and connection. However, the question remains: is this a good thing? On one hand, many argue that it cheapens leadership.
Many have argued that allowing voters into too personal of an exchange of information shifts the focus of a leader from their leadership, to their personal lives. On the other hand, it is an incredibly efficient way to quickly explain events, ideals and plans.
What is undeniable is that in the modern age, social media outlets are inescapably important. As leaders like Trump consistently turn to social media to connect with Americans and win elections, other leaders will begin to follow suit in order to stay on the curve. At the same time, social media can offer false comfort to politicians. Take Bernie Sanders for example, whose online support was massive, so massive that it seemed that primaries would swing in his favor considerably. Yet, when the time came, that was not the case. Whether this is because of poor millennial voter turnout, or something else entirely, online support isn’t always representative of real life support. Indeed, nothing online is always exactly as it seems, in an age where everything is verifiable, it is a strange phenomenon that misinformation abounds on the internet and social media. Whether you feel politician’s use of social media is promising or dangerous, it is important to keep in mind just how recent this trend it is, and just how strangely easy it is to be misled online.