The Social Media-ist

The Internet has been, and will increasingly be, an important source for political news for people of all ages. Specifically, social networking sites are becoming more and more critical to both candidates and voters alike. Such sites as YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook have been discussed by Gueorguieva and Slotnick. In these respective readings, both authors recognize the importance of social media for reaching younger voters. For a group that only has about 50% of possible voters turning out to the polls, this can be a very effective way to reach them. MySpace is probably a little outdated by now, but it created the political foundation Facebook now uses. Both websites allowed voters to register to vote online and gain access to the “personal” profiles of the candidates. I say “personal” because most candidates simply used these pages to further their platform. The exception to this was Barack Obama. Simply by glancing at the figures in the Slotnick reading, it becomes obvious that Obama’s page is much more authentic – in the sense that his information seems more personal and less political. For the average person, a profile page is supposed to serve as a way for your friends to find out a little more about you as a person, not you as a professional.

Another benefit mentioned by Gueorguieva is that social media allows lesser known candidates to reach a wide audience for little to no cost. This is important especially when running against an incumbent who most likely has a fundraising edge. Giving more candidates the ability to reach a substantial audience should maximize the utility of democracy. Instead of choosing the best among well-known candidates, Americans can choose THE best candidate. This allows the right person for the job to be recognized early and have a more legitimate chance at winning an election. So my question to you is do you think that social media makes it possible for someone who in the past might not be known to his own party to win the presidential election? In other words, does social media improve, even perfect, the democratic election process?

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3 Responses to The Social Media-ist

  1. emilyod17 says:

    Those are some interesting questions! While I think that social media does make it possible for campaigns to distribute information regarding their candidates beliefs, preferences, policies, and ideologies, I do not think that social media creates a “perfect” democratic election process. The election process cannot possibly be perfected by social media, because social media, while powerful, has the power to inform but also hide key information about candidates. For example, it is unlikely that one will find out a candidate’s weaknesses or flaws by looking at their profiles. To obtain this information, one must seek out third-party outside news sources that give unbiased, or less biased for that matter, information on a candidate. So while social media promotes political activism, it by no means creates a perfect system that should be wholly relied upon. In order to choose THE best candidate, there must be a compilation of information sources other than social media. One must be a little more proactive than simply reading a tweet or watching a Youtube video.

  2. zkanters says:

    You raise a really important question. While I think that selective exposure is still a factor in the democratic election process, I think it had a larger impact early on in social medai with YouTube and Myspace. As Professor Pasek mentioned in class, with YouTube and other social media, candidates were able to access the public with just spending money on production, eliminating huge costs of airing a commercial. This opened up so many possibilities and new opporutnities for candidates with play with. Anything new and exciting, particularly online, has it’s fads where everyone is active and watching or participating; but eventually this fades. So, as I said before, I think in the beginning of social media it may have been possible for someone’s party to be more well known, or possibly win the presidential election. I wouldn’t go so far to say that it can “perfect” the process though. It gives the opportunity to reach more people, a cheaper way, and most likely a more personal way. Today, however, we follow those who instills our goals and ideals.

  3. alfein says:

    Although you raise great points, I have to agree that I do not believe that social media perfects the democratic process. For example, think of the Youtube video that we were shown in class of “Obama Girl.” Although this girl may have been pro Obama, the way that individuals see this in regards to Obama as a candidate to be skewed. Social media provides both less and more control for a political campaign in certain ways, and in this way there was little that the campaign could do to have the reigns on this video. It does however, as mentioned above, give the candidate a greater chance to reach a greater audience in a quicker, easier and more personal fashion. Whether the pros outweigh the cons of social media in regards to political campaigns can still be debated.

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