If you ask a group of college students how they get their news, an unsurprising amount will say their phones. I get about 90% of my current news from Twitter, mostly because it’s easy and quick. When I told my coworkers and friends that I was interested in writing about how news and social media intersect, I was flooded with a ton of feedback. People really enjoy talking about how powerful Twitter has become, especially in the world of politics.
With our current President’s love for oversharing on Twitter, politicians have also hopped on board with keeping the public up-to-date through different platforms. Newbie Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has taken the internet by storm after becoming the youngest member to serve in Congress. AOC has also become very popular for live-streaming videos of herself eating mac n’ cheese, building Ikea furniture and talking candidly about current political news.
In a recent The Guardian article, author Oliver Burkeman does a deep dive into our reliance on technology. He discusses how normalized our relationships with our phones have become explaining, “we kill time on the bus or in queues by checking Twitter, only to find ourselves plunged into the dramas of presidential politics…” It’s no surprise that so many people have turned to social media during the current frenzy that is our political system.
With Twitter being used in a more serious way, Instagram has become a way to humanize people in DC hoping to make a change. Much like AOC, Beto O’Rourke has become a big fan of sharing insights into his daily life, even after losing to Ted Cruz earlier this year. Beto shares adventures with his kids as well as cooking clips. Unlike AOC, he has kept politics out of most of his videos.
It may seem odd to see politicians utilizing social media, but this is how all future campaigns will operate for years to come. I believe that anyone hoping to run for office has to be able to connect with people and social media is the best way to do this.
One critique of using social media during a campaign is how celebrities can influence a race. After someone with significant influence endorses a political party or person, there is always a huge effect at the polls. Some believe this has the potential to do a lot of good for candidates, but many question why these people with millions of followers should be allowed to influence any political election. Earlier this year, on the last day of voting, Beyoncé endorsed Beto with a series of tweets and Instagram photos. Many praised the singer for breaking her silence on the race, but after Beto lost some people were quick to point the finger back at the star. Many believed if she had posted her endorsement a few hours earlier, the election would have been drastically different.
Expressing one’s opinions on social media helps audiences feel like they are doing something during a time in politics were many feel helpless. I still can’t believe how powerful these platforms have been for people in power, but I think that relying on social media will only grow from here. Being able to easily and freely express one’s thoughts in 280 characters has given politicians a new voice with millions of people behind their screens waiting and listening.