Social media is the latest/greatest political tool, and some candidates are better than others at harnessing its power. Should we be concerned that social media will provide a strategic advantage to certain types of political personalities, perhaps lowering the overall quality of political discourse?

If what Matt Lieberman says in his YouTube video, “Did Google Manipulate Search Results for Hillary?” is any indication, then we have every right to be concerned . If companies – or individuals in charge of the company, etc. – are taking it upon themselves to manipulate search results in favor of one candidate over the other, that could seriously affect the way people view that candidate.

Social media has the potential to produce the same type of situation. In fact, I find it most interesting that many politicians are dedicating at least nine percent of their campaign funds to social media (Fromm, 2016). The idea here is to cater to Millennials, which makes sense in a way.  I predict that the next election, in 2020, politicians will use significantly more of their budget to win over Millennials and others, through social media.

The fact of the matter is, we have over reliance upon social media for everything: Business, personal, recreational, etc.  Political affairs were only a hop, skip and a jump away from gaining prominence in the world of social media.

It is clear that in some instances, people in high places are attempting to use social media and search results to manipulate the people and the voters. There was even one instance before the primaries where an experiment was done that ended up swinging at least 48% of voters in one direction by exposing them to particular search results (Lieberman, 2016).

Due to the fact that many Millennials are now seeing social media as a way to keep up with politics (Fromm, 2016), I believe quite strongly that political discourse in the future will be vastly different from what I have known and from what it is today.

While Fromm’s ideas of participatory politics and ongoing conversations are excellent and it seems like they would work out quite well for us, I think that we’re still a long way from having a “perfect system” for political discourse via social media.

Another idea to consider is that ever since 2008, with the so called “facebook election” of Barack Obama (Carr, 2015), candidates have been taking to social media for the discussion of issues.  We need only glimpse at Donald Trump’s Twitter feed or Hillary Clinton’s debates over Facebook and Twitter with Rand Paul.  It’s interesting to see how many potential candidates are using social media for political discourse in this manner.
Does a social-media-only news diet provide adequate depth of information to enable effective participation in the political process?

I do not believe that a social media news only diets is effective enough to allow me to participate in politics – or anyone for that matter.  Much of what we receive via social media only news is heavily skewed to what we want to see.  At least this has been the case in my own personal social media feed.

Most of the time, I end up being inundated with an excessive amount of political information. This political information seems to be representative of the views of my friends, family or others whom I may be following on social media.

Occurrences such as this are extremely likely on Facebook and other social media sites, Where a series of history , algorithms, those you follow and much more coalesces into an entirely personal feed (Herrman, 2016).

On Facebook, you don’t have to worry about seeing something you don’t want to see . You can simply block it. On Twitter, it’s the same deal. You even have the ability on most social networking sites to not only personalize you, but also to block and report anything you disagree with. It gets quite weird at times.

However interesting that may be, it seems that many people actually get their news from sites like Reddit (Gottfried and Shearer, 2016). This in and of itself is kind of interesting to me.  I’m one of those people. I frequently use Reddit as a source for news, along with a few other sources.

In a study conducted by Pew Research Center, we get to see just how diverse and unique some of the services are compared to the others in their presentation of news and how people get that news (Gottfried and Shearer, 2016).  it turns out that people happen upon news more frequently through services like Instagram whereas they have to find it on services like Reddit.  If we translate this out to political news and news sources, there is appears to be a trend toward social media being a battleground for politicians.

All I ever seem to see in the news I get from social media is the dissemination of what one pundit or examiner or newsperson or whomever thinks about the political candidate they think I want to see.  It’s quite annoying and I feel bad for a future where social media outlets are where we get our political and other news.

Sources:

Lieberman, M.  (2016). Did Google manipulate search results for Hillary?” SourceFed. Retrieved from https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PFxFRqNmXKg.

Fromm, J. (2016) New study finds social media shapes millennial political involvement and engagement. Forbes.

Carr, N. (2015) How social media is ruining politics. Politico. Retrieved from http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/09/2016-election-social-media-ruining-politics-213104.

Herrman, J. (2016). Inside facebook’s (totally insane, unintentionally gigantic, hyperpartisan) political-media machine. New York Times. Retrieved from http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/08/28/magazine/inside-facebooks-totally-insane-unintentionally-gigantic-hyperpartisan-political-media-machine.html?_r=0&referer=

 

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