Now that we've overcome the initial hype of social media that always accompanies any technological change, it's easier to recognize how it's affected society at large. Aside from easier networking for recreational purposes, social media has made its mark on politics in ways that aren't readily apparent yet to even the most acute observers. The ability to share news, opinions and information at the speed of light has already begun to break down walls and shake up the political landscape drastically. Ultimately, the impact of social media on politics is an unfolding story that continues to evolve with each passing day.
How Social Media Influences Politics at
From sparking revolutions to influencing
political campaigns, Twitter and Facebook are the new weapons of choice for
mass broadcasting. While the actual software platforms that facilitate the
social media sharing are fascinating in and of themselves, it's the manner in
which they're used that's really amazing. From organic, grassroots fund-raising
as exemplified by the historic primary run of Ron Paul to interaction with
constituents via the Google+ Politicsportal, social media has thoroughly
permeated the current political landscape. Even oppressive regimes overseas and
close to home are feeling the effects of the increased exposure wrought by
social media activism.
Shaping Perception & Sparking Reform
The YouTube phenomenon of Obama Girl made
the 2008 presidential elections in the United States the first to feature true
viral candidate promotion. The upcoming 2012 GOP convention in Tampa claims
that it will be the most social event in politics yet, featuring an
unprecedented level of live content streaming thanks to widespread mobile
device adoption and usage. Clearly, the days when campaigning revolved around
stump speeches and baby-kissing are over. While creating the right perception
among constituents is one shallow use of social media, affecting popular
grassroots change is just as common. Already, official White House website
petitions are used to at least gauge the level of demand for change if not
actually delivering it.
Social Revolutions Around the World
Not all social media political action is as
peaceful as fund-raisers and online petitions. As the events of the spring of
2011 conclusively demonstrated, it can also be used to rally the people in the
event of a revolution. During the upheaval in Egypt that eventually ousted
Mubarak, savvy web users relied on Twitter and wireless mesh networking to
circumvent the government's Internet wall that attempted to separate the
country from the outside world. Likewise, the accompanying Arab Spring riots in
countries like Tunisia, Libya and Bahrain relied extensively on social media to
coordinate movements, supplies and logistics throughout the revolt.
Demolishing the Political Machine
In some cases, social media is being used
by more alternative counterculture types to avoid "the system"
entirely. If the mantra of the 60s was "tune in, turn on, drop out",
the motto of the digital natives is "plug in, link up, Do It
Yourself." The so-called Millennial Generation more often than not
leverages social media to cut ties with traditional politics and create their
own semi-autonomous communities that are more self-reliant than previous
generations. The Occupy Wall Street encampments in New York showed how powerful
such a mindset can be, even when shared by a wildly diverse group of people who
are highly wired and intricately networked.
Social Media and Politics in the 21st
What we've seen in just the first decade of
this millennium alone as far as social media is concerned is merely a harbinger
of things to come. Massive, distributed information sharing is really only the
beginning. What began as simple sharing will morph into action in the coming
years. As such, it's no surprise that governments worldwide are already using
expansive data-mining projects like the massive NSA data center to keep tabs on
movements in the social media sphere. Expect the trend to accelerate and
magnify as an ever more integrated and responsive digital global consciousness
develops in the near future.
Nicola Byrne writes for Calverton Finance , a UK company specialising in payroll through their Payfactory service.