Social media influences politics, for better or worse?
By: Karen Estrada
Before former President Barack Obama utilized social media and got the nickname of being the “first social-media president,” there was former President John F. Kennedy who was excellent in front of the TV with his famous debate with Richard Nixon in the 1960s and his many interviews, speeches and news conferences afterwards. He knew how to use to his charisma to get people to pay attention to him via TV.
As expected, technology has improved rapidly since then. Now we see political figures tweeting, posting on Facebook and going on live on Instagram. They are seen as people we can actually relate too and connect with. With former President Barack Obama, we were amazed how easily it became to actually look into the world of the president and see his day-to-day activities as we experienced his presidency with him. It did not seem he was too far away from us. He used social media during his campaign and his presidency, and it was seen as an amazing feat. Now politicians using social media it is seen more as dubious than amazing. Many politicians can lie and confuse the truth through social media with little repercussions.
As social media becomes more intertwined with our daily lives, politicians and public servants are not being held to a certain standard of civil commitment. Not long ago Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) ran an ad on Facebook that opened with “Breaking news: Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook just endorsed Donald Trump for re-election.” As that ad ran on Facebook, it brought up the latest debate about if the platform should be held responsible for the misinformation spread by politicians. Even if these platforms should be held responsible, they would conversely be targeted by privacy experts and free speech advocates. By the time there are regulations set in place it would be too late.
Social media’s impact on the political process is not just on the content, it is also on the structure of how people receive this content. This communication structure has become known as “flow”, a psychological idea adopted from a digital-design strategy in video games, created to keep the user moving from one thing to another, repetitively consuming media, rather than understanding the content. Flow is particularly damaging when it comes to social media because this is where a majority of people consume their news. The information does not have to be correct for it to make an impact, as seen with Warren’s (D-Mass.) Facebook ads. Though there are politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) who uses social media to effectively connect with followers and explain policies, as the presidential campaigns move forward there will be more misinformation about other candidates.
Ultimately, deciphering what is correct and what is not falls on the American people to decide. Blindly trusting social media with political correctness is not something that would be recommendable.
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