Social media and the political dialogue

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There has been much focus on the way in which the Trump campaign utilized social media in the 2016 presidential election. It was quite evident that it had a tremendous role in the election of Donald Trump’s aka “Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters”. With millions of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vine, Instagram and Periscope followers, the Trump campaign strategy was pretty simple: throw the rules of social etiquette out the window, keeping a constant flow of messages, and keeping it simple. From the start of his campaign, where most candidates, and brands in general, keep social media clean, free of negative comments about competitors and separate the personal and professional persona, Donald Trump has used his social media platforms to engage in feuds with candidates and companies alike and to express his most controversial thoughts. Many of his messages came from Trump himself which made followers feel connect to the “real voice” and viewed him as an authentic candidate. To many, Trump was unlike any of the usual “politicians” that run for office. His message was simple “Make America Great Again” and his use of short, easy to read text, made his messages quick and shareable content which created one viral showdown after another.

So social media played a large part in creating the scandal focused campaign of 2016 where topics like Trumps refusal to release tax returns, or comments about women were the top trending topics over anything related to policy.“But underneath that glaring and obvious conclusion, there’s a deeper story about how the very DNA of social media platforms and the way people use them has trickled up through our political discourse and affected all of us, almost forcing us to wallow in the divisive waters of our online conversation. “

Now let’s look at the issue of actually utilizing these platforms as a way to have political conversations. People are using Facebook to express their distaste for others stance on political issue by unfriending those that they disagree with. Or using Twitter to publicly shame each other in regards to political viewpoints. The issue is that these social media platforms were not meant to have conversations with one another about such in-depth and complicated issues.  So 140-character bursts do not make for sophisticated, thoughtful political conversation. There is also the problem of not actually interacting with real life people as a new research study at Oxford University found that many tweets during the course of the election came from automated accounts and “bots don’t tend to be mild-mannered, judicial critics. “  In examining the core of Facebook, it “is a platform meant to connect users with people they already like, not to foster discussion with those you might disagree with.” The news feed on a person page is influenced heavily on their political views and when Facebook tried to share trending news as a way to expose users to various viewpoints, they faced push back from conservatives that felt that the shared articles reflected a liberal bias. And then there is the issue of Facebook being increasingly accused of becoming a hotbed of fake political news.

So to me the important issue is whether social media has helped or hurt the country’s political dialogue.



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1 Response to Social media and the political dialogue

  1. sydhavely says:

    You make a strong point about the inability of social media, particularly Twitter, to have a conversation about complicated and complex issues raised in the presidential campaign and that continue to swirl around the 45th president and his policies. Coincidentally, you strike the same chord as the social activist Wael Ghonim, hailed as the force behind the Tahrir Square demonstration that sparked the Arab Spring and downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek. Since then Ghonim has had doubts about what social media can do or isequipped to do regarding complicated social issues. Here is a story of his transformation that your blog post echoes in spirit and sentiment: Great post.

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