Social Media Impact on Elections

The use of social media in politics including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter has dramatically changed how people interact with the election officials, and the way campaigns are run.  The availability of social media has made the election candidates vying for public office and officials accessible and accountable to the voters (Gomez, 2014).  And the ability to broadcast content to millions of people all at once allows the campaign teams to carefully manage the candidate’s image in real time at a reduced cost.  The social media democratizes the information that is shared and helps citizens to quickly and easily connect with other people who share different opinions.  The political landscape has drastically changed over a couple of decades. The internet seems to be spearheading the transformation.  The social media platform is now a severe factor in influencing the ways individuals think.  The supporters and candidates continuously post their view on social media.  Each party has its page from which they request for donations and broadcast propaganda.  The essay will focus on the social media influence on elections.

Positives

The social media podiums such as YouTube and Facebook give politicians a chance to speak to their followers without spending a dime directly.  By utilizing social media, the politicians have managed to circumvent the traditional methods that were used to voters through the earned media and paid advertisement.  It has also become common for the politicians to create ads and circulate them for free on social media platforms such as YouTube instead of paying for time on the radio or television (Hendricks &K  Schill, 2017).  In many cases the journalists who manage the campaigns write about the advertisement, thereby broadcasting the message at no cost to a larger audience.  Traditionally if a voter wanted to meet politicians, they could have to wait for a national event, and not everyone was to do that.  With the rise of social media, the voters can freely engage with a politician on the live events.

Twitter and Facebook are some of the social media platforms that have become instrumental in organizing campaigns.  These platforms allow the activists and voters to share information and news such as campaign events to other people.  That is what the “retweet” and “share” function on Facebook is meant for.  President Donald Trump is one of the candidates who heavily relied on Twitter to campaign during the 2016 election.  He stated that he relied on the platform because it made it easier for him to engage directly with victors and have his viewpoint spread out there with any distortion (In Brown & IGI Global, 2017).  The politicians can now tap into a wealth of analytics or information about the individuals who follow them on twitter and customize their message based on the followers.  In simple words, the campaign team might find the message appropriate for sixty years old, not appropriate for thirty years old.  If a candidate wants to address the concerns of retired people, college students, women, and any other group of voters they can just tailor their message the same way. It is common to notice that that the message that spread on the social media by politicians addresses you.

Some of the campaign teams use the social media to raise cash within the shortest time possible.  The social media tools have played a crucial part in spreading the message.  Ron Paul who was one of the Presidential aspirants in the 2008 presidential election used social media to run one of the most successful funding campaigns.  The social media tools have allowed citizens to unite and petition the elected leaders and the government, leveraging against powerful individuals (In Brown & IGI Global, 2017).  The worth of social media is in its proximity.  The campaign and the politicians must make calculated moves, and they must gauge how the policies will play among the electorate, Facebook and Twitter both give the chance to estimate how the followers are reacting to their message promptly. Therefore, politicians can adjust the campaigns immediately without the use of expensive polling or high priced consultants.

The social media platform have played a significant role in engaging the younger voters.  In many countries, a larger portion of people who go out to the polls is older voters.  Facebook and Twitter have energized the younger voters who have significantly changed the general effect on the election.  President Obama was one of the candidates who successfully tapped into the power of social media during his presidential campaigns.

Social media has changed politics in sheer speed at which the rumors, poll results, and news are shared.  Whereas in the pre-internet period people had to wait for twenty-four hours for the newspapers to catch up with the latest update, social media provides 24/7 news coverage (Yang & DeHart, 2016).  Most people spend a lot of time on sites such as Facebook and Twitter than they do on other political or news websites.  That means that you get the latest trend opinions and news stories shared by the friend whenever they log in.

Because the social media is relatively new, its impact on the election is just in the preliminary stage.  There are sure to many changes that could drastically change politics for good.  Some proposals have now been raised to introduce internet voting which could lead to so many people participating in elections no matter the country where they are located(Pavlíček, 2015).  This move could make the social media tools even more powerful than the present.  Other advancements will also transform politics.  The polling techniques will become common in future and will give accurate results.  As the social media platform becomes even more popular, its impact will continue being felt, and it will be interesting to watch how it plays out.

Negative impacts

Social media has negative impacts on the election and the political aspect in a country. Some candidates take the prime spots and funny twist to campaign against their competitors. These funny clips are posted on the social media platform, and they spread so quickly. Twitter, Facebook, and other platform are commonly known places where viewers post their feelings and opinions on certain candidates. Since there is no limitation on what people are supposed to post, people tend to express their views by mocking others. Therefore, social media can be used for mocking purposes by sycophants of a politician against others (Gerbaudo, 2012). People give their opinions on the negative and hurting comments in the social media. This tarnishes the image of the politician with the hurtful comments.

What happens on social media especially Facebook has a big effect on how the country votes. This is agreed by most experts particularly in British politics. The reasons behind this remains opaque as not all the reasons are clear. Social media determine the voter turnout on the election date. Many democratic exercises have gone off the rails because of the public sphere having large amounts of misinformation. The ability of people to think critically is influenced by the news from social media platforms. Facebook serves junk news to the users. The news spread so fast because of a large number of users. Facebook has an insidious effect on a democratic society. The sources of the news are false and bad because they mislead people. The problem is big and scarier to the people because most of them do not want to think critically. They stand by their understanding on their minds without considering others’ opinions. Little do they know that the views of others can be a cure for their problem (Yang & DeHart, 2016).

 

Social media affects the voter turnout in a specific region depending on how it has been utilized. Social media platforms can be used for mocking purposes of an individual political aspirant. Suppose that the stronghold of the politician gets offended by the negative opinions of people from social media, some of them will opt not to vote. This is a negative impact of the social media on the voter turnout during the election. Some of the people will respect the opinion of each other and go ahead to vote for their preferred candidate. The freedom of people to post their opinion on the social media has impacted negatively on the election (Gerbaudo, 2012).

The platforms of social media play a big role in creating a scandal-driven political campaign as opposed to issue-driven. Politicians exchange their attitude and their hunger for the power through these platforms. Most of them express their feeling in a way that hurt fellow candidates. Politicians believe that tarnishing the names of others builds their names. Some of them end up editing the posters and statement posted by their competitors (Yang & DeHart, 2016). The political posts on the social media especially toward the election date are more of scandals rather than addressing the manifestos and the issue affecting the citizens. The politicians continue being on the necks of each other rather than encouraging voters to elect them. The main topics of discussion tend to alienate from the political agenda.

Facebook is known for the spread of fake political news. This is according to a recent research report done by political analysts. The phony news impacts negatively on the opinions of many voters. The fake messages that look legitimate mislead people (Gerbaudo, 2012). This will eventually affect the minds of the people during the election. When the election date draws nearer, most of the Facebook users post political issues. Those who post get comments depending on the opinions of the friends. Some of the posts are fake and misleading to the citizens. Sycophants use this to spread negative rumors against the opponents of their candidates. Most of the political posts tend to attack the opponent and make their preferred candidates famous. The result of this is the boycott of the election by offended readers of the post. Some of the viewers will make sure they go for election on that day to prove wrong their fellows.

The fake groups in Facebook attract many fans to support a particular candidate. Many citizens are trapped by the false information and declare their support to the candidate without knowing that it is a trick for winning votes from them. Many researchers are unable to study how Facebook is computing propaganda and spreading it so fast. This is because Facebook does not share anything with the researchers. These automated accounts Facebook being one of them are significantly used to alter online political debates (Hendricks & Schill, 2017).

Conclusion

Social media has both negative and positive impacts on the election. This depends on how it has been used and the message that it spreads. It can be used by the candidates to express their manifestos to the public to gain fame. It offers a platform from which people can spread information to a large number of people within the shortest time possible. It can be used to mobilize people to vote peacefully for their preferred candidates. This is when the social media user utilizes the opportunity for a good purpose (Gerbaudo, 2012).

On the other hand, the user can decide to misuse social media for their own selfish ambitions. This is when the user decides to spread hate speech on the media concerning certain group. This is the wrong use of social media and action is taken to such individuals. Individuals who spread fake news on the media should be held responsible for their actions.

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