SOCIAL MEDIA AS A POLITICAL PLATFORM
Recently, there has been an uptick in the use of social media as a political platform. The Covid-19 pandemic has added to this phenomenon, and platforms such as FaceBook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram have been transformed into sources for information, and sometimes, misinformation. Between the use of social media as a space for expression by today’s teens and as a campaigning platform, political awareness among adolescents is on the rise.
With the election day fast approaching, a question arises: To what extent will social media impact the vote? People are also wondering: will the younger generations sway the outcome of this controversial election? According to a project done by Syracuse University, between June 1 and September 13, the Trump campaign and Biden campaign have collectively spent $65.8 million on social media advertising. This large sum has allowed each to spread its message to social media users all across the country, potentially impacting their votes this November. These platforms, according to PEW Research, are the main source of political information for a third of teens surveyed in 2016. One in every ten eligible voters in this election is a member of “Generation Z,” a generation that grew up with Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and the like. Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have released features to allow for easy voter registration, encouraging political activity among their users.
These tactics lead to tangible results. A study by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that social media jolted the youth into action. Teens on Twitter were more likely to participate in protests and express their political beliefs. On Instagram, teens often protest, use their platform politically, raise money for a cause, and help out organizations. This study shows how social media not only educates teens and raises their awareness, but prompts them to use their platform to educate friends and followers. Furthermore, a study done by Tufts University showed that as compared to voters aged 18-29 in 2016, this election’s turnout from this age group is roughly eight times greater in Florida and North Carolina, and 19 times greater in Michigan.
Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd prompted many teens across the nation to use their platforms to discuss their beliefs, educate others, and make a change in society. While these posts and shares seem like small actions, the impact they may have is enormous. One share leads to two, which leads to three, and so on and so forth. With new technology, current events and ideas can spread like wildfire through virtual communities. What is occurring today can be compared to the advent of the printing press in 1455; with new forms of media, ideas and movements spread faster than ever before.
One concern with the increased use of technology for the spread of news is the fear of misinformation. As seen with the coronavirus, misinformation spread from politicians and partisan outlets over the recent months. With advice that masks are not helpful and false remedies for the virus, social media companies worked hard to prevent the spread of these false and potentially harmful notions.
Social media companies have been taking precautions to ensure that their social media platforms do not interfere with the upcoming election. Facebook, with 175 million users in the United States, announced that they will not have new political advertisements in the week leading up to the election. It is taking measures to warn against posts that are meant to undermine the legitimacy of the election. Facebook is going to ensure that no early false announcements of the election will have a serious impact by directing its users to official information from the National Election Pool. Similarly, Twitter has announced that they will take down posts that announce false victory claims. YouTube plans to remove posts that lie about the eligibility of candidates and promote false information regarding dates and locations for voting. TikTok has joined in, stating that they will “combat misinformation, disinformation, and other content that may be designed to disrupt the 2020 election.” Hopefully, these companies will succeed in their efforts to maintain the integrity of the approaching election.
Social media, a multi-faceted outlet of expression, has the potential to spread awareness and raise political activity among today’s youth. Used in the right way, social media platforms can contribute to the creation of a more educated, tolerant, and understanding society.
Parker, Kim, and Ruth Iglelnik. “On the Cusp of Adulthood and Facing an Uncertain Future: What We Know About Gen Z So Far.” Pew Research Center, 2020.
Jennifer, Stromer-Galley. “Trump and Biden ads on Facebook and Instagram focus on
rallying the base.” The Conversation, 2020.
“First-time voters, young voters making their voices heard in 2020.” MSNBC, 2020.