Social platforms evolved well past their beginnings as digital communication networks, becoming the new leaders in the digital media industry. Since social media is so popular these days, it’s now in particular a serious factor in political campaigns. Nearly 20% of total time spent online in the US across both desktop and mobile devices is on social platforms. And just Facebook alone makes up 14% of total time spent online.
Candidates and their supporters constantly post their views on Facebook and Twitter, and each party has its own pages, from which it broadcasts propaganda and requests for donations. Targeting, which is used throughout the advertising industry, is actually also used by Politicians. If a candidate wants to address the concerns of something, they can now tailor their own messages. In other words, if you notice that political messages seem to be talking to you personally, this is no accident!
One way social media has transformed politics is the sheer speed at which news, poll results and rumors are shared. But that also means political campaigns are now influenced by every story, whether true or not, that gets spread around social media. It’s actually getting more and more difficult to separate actual news from fake news online. There are politically biased websites as well as those peddling various unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. There are also now quite a few fake or satirical “news” sites that often post stories that sound authentic, which also doesn’t help. Therefore it’s quite necessary to use a great deal of discernment before believing anything you come across on the internet. And just as other types of political news, the internet has greatly increased the amount of poll results we see each day. Although somewhat flawed, when people are posting the latest poll results on social media throughout the day there’s a great deal of pressure on candidates to pull ahead of their opponents. If the people think one candidate is way far ahead in the race, they might conclude there’s no point in voting for an underdog. And when everyone is posting the latest poll results on social media throughout the day, there’s a huge deal of pressure on the candidates to pull ahead of their opponents.
Another way social media has transformed politics is the opportunities it has given for voters to interact more easily with candidates and elected officials. Traditionally, if you wanted to meet a candidate or politician, you’d have to go attend a live event. But with modern technology, it’s now possible to attend virtual events where you can participate in live streaming events and interact with politicians and candidates!
One of the hidden forces that operates on social media is confirmation bias. This is especially powerful when it comes to controversial topics, including politics. This means that the vast majority of tweets, Facebook posts, pins or other content you read on these sites tend to express the same point of view, one that you already hold. People will post links to stories that confirm your existing bias. They’ll repeat opinions you already hold.
On social media sites, this can create the illusion that “everybody” thinks the same way.
For this reason, social media may reinforce our opinions and it can both make it more difficult to entertain alternative points of view and make people more opinionated as well as less tolerant of others.
On the other hand, if you make an effort to connect with an assortment of people with diverse viewpoints, you can overcome confirmation bias and use social media to make you more open-minded. Because social media is relatively new, we’re just starting to see its impact on society. There are sure to be many more political changes that come about due to social media.