Politics 2.0

The way political information is distributed, the way a politician runs his or her campaign, and the way an election is won have all changed since the dawning of the internet.  While traditional outlets including televised press conferences and town halls were how people interested in politics heard about their potential candidates, now there are a plethora of ways for politicians to reach their constituets, and it is up to those politicians to decide the best way to do so.

Take former president Barack Obama and his 2008 campaign for the presidential seat.  It will go down in history books that Mr. Obama was the first president to win a political election by way of using the web, in addition to traditional, 1.0 methods.  Young voters under age 25 were instrumental in electing this leader, as nearly 70% of registered voted between the ages of 18-25 pulled the level for Obama in 2008.  This is in great part due to this ability to use the web as a tool that young people were literate, and even obsessed with.  The platforms he maintained included  Facebook, Twitter, the MyBarackObama website, Youtube, a blog, and buying online ads rather than only traditional TV and radio spots.

Below is a video used to promote the 2008 election of Barack Obama, it was distributed via Youtube and posted to President Obama’s Twitter and immediately went viral:

The web has also allowed for not only people interested in politics, but those not as involved to become aware of candidates and where they lie on issues important to them.  Rather than having to seek out traditional outlets, which only those with a keen interest in politics would do, the internet as a platform for distributing political information reached American citizen who would have never turned to C-SPAN on their television sets, or PBS on their radios.  In 2008, not only Obama’s message that resonated with youth, but also the ability to research at their finger tips via platforms they were comfortable with, like Twitter, and with just the click of a follow button, ensured Obama would reach more people then a electoral candidate ever had before.

This tweet following the 2012 re-eleciton of President Obama, was the most popular tweet ever at the time of its posting:

I can only imagine that today Obama’s 2008 election strategy is a case study used by people running for all types of office.  Donald Trump has become next politician to really get a handle on social media and the web 2.0 and use it to his advantage, along with traditional outlets.  In fact, Mr. Trump used Twitter pre-election as much as he uses it post-election.  Here is a tweet he posted just yesterday:

Web 2.0 had made Politics 2.0 a reality, and one that can be harnessed to reach the highest office in the land, if used correctly.

 

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Facebook in the Political World

The internet has come a long way since I was born in 1996. It was at first a tool used for knowledge and promotion, but it has become so much more than that. In 2007, at 11 years old, I opened a Facebook account- it was my first social networking site. The way Facebook worked then was Twitter-esque, whenever you had a spare moment you would answer the question, “What are you doing right now?” Usually you were doing nothing of importance, but when constantly prompted, you’d either write a lengthly anecdote about your day or ask a rhetorical question. You were constantly adding new friends as more and more people joined the site each day.

Today, Facebook has become a minefield of political articles and personal posts about political opinions, far different from its intended use back when it was just a message board for Harvard students in the mid-2000’s.  It is almost impossible to enter the sight without seeing a post about Donald Trump’s newest executive order or the latest on international terrorism; the site is almost taken over by news articles.  “Fake news,” a term everywhere these days, referring specifically to how Facebook’s lack of vetting their news sources may have led to the election of Donald Trump in America, became a huge international topic in November of 2016, and continues to be today.  Thanks to the algorithm used by Facebook, people who leaned in a particular political direction saw posts that most fit their beliefs, while articles that challenged their beliefs were most of the time not presented.  This led conservatives (and democrats) to read extremely right-wing (or left-wing) articles usually filled with misinformation, trying to grab readers attention and get them to vote in a particular direction.

Donald Trump made use of this new tool, a Facebook centered on politics, as well as Twitter, to his advantage.  His constant stream of tweets late into the night entertained the public and got his name out into the media more than it would have without a social media presence.  And Mr. Trump continues to tweet reckless and hasty messages even as he holds the presidency in the United States.  Additionally, Facebook launched Donald Trump onto a platform that allowed it’s almost 2 billion users to read about him day after day, normalizing his outrageous comments to the press and making desensitizing the public to how crazy his statements actually were.

Social media platforms are powerful tools, and when used for good can help positive messages spread like wildfire, a la the ALS ice bucket challenge.  But when false news spreads in the same way, dangerous things may happen, like the presidency of a man like we have never seen in the United States of America.

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