Social Media and Politics

Note: another non-music post. I wrote this as part of my Advertising class, but the content is super-duper.

In today’s blog I’m going to share my thoughts on the relationship between social media use and politics. Has the use of technology helped the public interact with our government or has it made things even more complicated?

trudeau

photo courtesy of the Ottawa Citizen.

‘Merica:

Recently there have been a lot, and I mean A LOT of talks about politics and the American election in particular. We’ve seen candidates resign over four-year-old tweets, and we’ve seen GOP candidates have a playground-style battle about penis sizes and ex-wives over the Internet. The frenzy that’s going on down-south has made many people, including myself, question what benefits social media is providing in a world full of ads, shady-journalism, and selective coverage from the media outlets.

The Good:

With all of this pure insanity floating around right now, I started to think about the “transparency” that technology is supposed to be building between the public and our governing figures. In the year of 1916, there’s no way you could sit in your underwear and tweet to a world leader. But it’s not 1916, it’s 2016. What a time to live.

Now if Donald Trump says something absurd, I don’t even need to leave my couch if I want to tell him directly to go build a wall around himself. Things like this, being able to directly contact your MP or government representative is a great thing. I think it’s incredible that I can follow Justin Trudeau on Twitter, who by the way, is one of the best examples of politicians using social media effectively.

The Bad:

One thing to remember though, is that with the ability to ask questions and shame our politicians’ unfavourable moments, also comes the ability for people to rapidly spread misinformation or false campaign promises to their individual audiences. If “Tronald Dump”, according to Ricky from Trailer Park Boys, has millions of people supporting and retweeting his ridiculous claims, is social media being still playing positive role?

In the age of information, the golden days of the Internet, we’re facing a seemingly endless battle of having to filter all of our online information for what’s factual and what’s not. Memes and tweets are often thought of as facts and are shared before the user bothers to Google what their beloved neo-Hitler is promising.

To bring things back into perspective, I think the use of social media is complicating the political process. That being said, the waters were already pretty muddy to begin with. I think it’s fantastic that people can share political views or ideas and interact with the government with the press of a touch screen. I think in many ways that social media is helping to bridge some gaps and settle some of the trust issues that the public is having.

The Impact:

We need to be extremely careful with HOW we use social media. I don’t think it would be a smart idea for governments to reverse the trends and go back to secret meetings and classified documents.

However, I think the public needs to understand that social media, although it’s free and easy to use for the simplest of primates, can carry a lot of decision making power, especially if the messages are coming from people with massive social standing or political power. I’ve talked a lot about Twitter because it seems to be the easiest and most common way that people are using social media to talk about politics, but that doesn’t mean that the message isn’t the same when using Facebook and other platforms.

What Needs to Happen:

In the current age I think that politicians will need a squeaky-clean social media presence and a smart approach to how their messages are being conveyed through the medium. As time goes on and more of the dinosaurs are replaced, I think that having a perfect account will be less of an issue, but currently supporters are seeing one controversial tweet and switching teams immediately.

On the other side, members of the public who are using social media and discussing politics need to learn a few things:

1) Just because it’s a tweet, doesn’t make it a fact.

2) Just because you can comment, doesn’t mean you have to.

3) RESEARCH! Don’t just unconsciously spew your favourite politicians verbal vomit onto your neighbour’s Twitter feed without doing some research. Google is wonderful, so use it.

The End:

That’s my rant on the use of social media and how it’s affecting politics. I’ll be back this week with more music content, but until then I urge you to follow some of your local politicians. Think before you get mad and retweet a questionable Trump quote or share a Facebook photo saying how “Stephen Harper was Canada’s greatest prime minister.” (That’s a real post by the way, and the un-friending happened immediately after seeing that on my feed.)

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