In an age where the lives of everyday citizens can be found documented on Facebook, it shouldn’t be surprising that in an election to decide the leader of the free world, social media is exploding.
During the first 90 minutes the first presidential debate, there were 10.3 million tweets,
according to Damall Keith of myfoxhouston.com.
The Republican National Convention decided this year to stream its event live on YouTube, providing free access to those not able to attend.
Both of these exemplify the positive nature of social media on politics: more access for the public. After all, Twitter essentially created a public forum for debate and discussion after the various political events that have occurred during the campaigning process. The minute Romney or Obama makes a political promise or kisses a baby, there are eager tweets and status updates exclaiming the news, espousing opinions and making statements. While the Constitution gives the right to assemble, Facebook and Twitter provide the public’s access to assembly without even leaving the comfort of his or her home. Social media has become the great equalizer, suddenly; everybody has the chance to be a political correspondent. Move over Wolf Blitzer, make way for MissyGirl9651.
But is that actually a good thing? After all, political correspondents actually have training in his or her field (no matter how many times it seems like they just make things up).
“I have a Twitter, so I sorta watch the debates” states Trisha Paytas, a frequent YouTube vlogger, in her video “Why I’m voting for Mitt Romney” which has garnered 1,690,772 views.
Whether said jokingly or not, the concept of taking tweets as news can be concerning.
After all, opinion can easily be confused for fact. Unlike newspapers, Twitter doesn’t have editors to make sure that lies are stopped in their tracks. One simple opinion can turn into a fact that can be debated on forums, walls and comments sections.
This essentially perpetuates the already bustling rumor mill that is the political campaign. Back in the days of old, “mudslinging” was a popular technique used to undermine political opponents. Campaigners would pass out pamphlets dictating the evils of the rival candidate.
Can you imagine a Romney campaign centered on pamphlet ads tossed in the street? Or instead of an Obama supporter calling you, having that same person stopping you on the sidewalk ensure your support? No hang up option there.
No, it’s hard to imagine. At the same time, the mudslinging gets out slower; it doesn’t infect Facebook walls, YouTube commercials or Pandora ads.
So what does this mean for social media? Is it evil or a necessary evil? Is it even that bad? In all honesty, no matter the various opinions traversing the Internet; social media and politics work better together than any of the politicians in Congress. Social media gives the people a voice to talk about politics and people are actually using that voice.
In a democracy that’s all you can ask for.