By: LILJA NICHOLSON
There is no question that we tend to be influenced by those we chose to spend time with, but what happens when our time with them is online? During our last election, there was a lot of speculation that other countries were meddling with American’s opinions on the electoral candidates through cleverly placed propaganda. Everyone has a different opinion on this topic, but what are the facts?
Social media has definitely had an impact on the number of voters we have each year. Mohammad Alshereda, an expert on social media and its impacts on elections, stated in The Times of Israel, “Social media has allowed candidates to reach a younger generation of voters who previously might not have been as engaged with a candidate or their platform. Younger people are the majority of users on social media, even though the prevalence of older individuals on these platforms is starting to grow as well.” This means that since more people are informed on the candidates running, more people feel passionate about which candidate should win, so they are more likely to go out and vote. This is definitely impacting the outcome of our elections because people between the ages of 18-40 make up about 35% of the population. This is a huge voting group that, prior to the widespread usage of social media, was highly inaccessible by electoral candidates.
Social media also affects and amplifies our political views. We tend to interact with people that agree with us politically, but we have to be careful to incorporate people with other political views into our feeds. Chanelle Ignant of KQED writes Living in a democracy means that all voices can be heard. But with the ability to curate our own news and limit the voices of those with opposing political views, we end up only hearing from people we agree with and completely missing out on anyone else’s opinion. Instead of embracing a vibrant public conversation, we end up in an online echo chamber.” Since there is nothing to contrast our own beliefs, we tend to become more and more radical in our political opinions.
Overall, the introduction of social media into our elections has been a mostly positive thing for American politics. We are more informed on who we are voting for and our elections get higher voter turnout, which helps us see more opinions from our citizens. We have to be careful to have a wide array of people with different political ideas and backgrounds to avoid falling too deep into our parties’ opinions. Social media will continue to influence us in the future as it becomes more developed, and I am excited to see what part it plays in our future elections.