As a first-time voter this year, I am trying my best go stay aware and involved with the race and the coinciding facts. Similarly to many others my age, the main media that I access to learn about what each party and candidate believes in are social networking and campaign websites. Therefore, I am wondering, how important are these sites in the upcoming election and how will they impact voters like me?
In her article, Republicans Embrace Twitter Hard for ’12, Jennifer Steinhauer discusses the importance and prevalence of the social networking site, Twitter. She discusses the ways in which each party has embraced Twitter as a means of attracting voters. In the 2008 election, the Democratic party was miles ahead of the Republican party in terms of their online presence. Obama’s presence on Facebook, MySpace, and his website allowed his campaign to raise money, gather volunteers, publicize events, and present videos to the public. John McCain of Arizona, on the other hand “was flat-footed in the same arena.” According to Steinhauer, there was a major change soon after the election, as Republicans “embrace(d) Twitter hard.” Specifically, they have embraced the “insta-Tweet” by rapidly tweeting responses to speeches and messages produced by the opposition. The Republican online presence, too, has greatly increased. House Republican members have more than twice as many followers as their Democratic counterparts and are far more active on Twitter. Steinhauer stresses the importance of social media use, primarily Twitter, as a tool for both parties in this upcoming election and as a potential determinant in their success.
Unlike Steinhauer, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, a Research Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, is not as convinced by the power and potential impact of social networking and political campaign sites. In his article, Mundane Internet Tools, Mobilizing Practices, and the Coproduction of Citizenship in Political Campaigns, he argues that “specific mundane internet tools (like email) are much more deeply integrated into mobilizing practices today than emerging tools (like social networking sites) and specialized tools (like campaign websites).” In order to provide research and evidence for his theory, Nielsen analyzes his ten months of ethnographic fieldwork in two congressional districts. He insists that social networking and campaign sites are not what’s important in the political world, but rather emails and web searches are the key to mobilization of voters, which he narrows down to volunteering for political campaigns.
It is evident that not everyone agrees upon the importance of social networking and campaign websites. I am curious to learn how voters like me feel about the arguments posed above. How important do you believe social networking sites be in this upcoming election? Should hours upon hours be spent managing these sites, or are they really just a waste of time, unlikely to truly impact voters when it comes to “mobile” political activeness?