PAINTER: Social media’s impact on elections

Nov 14, 2012


Yes, some political candidates dabbled with Facebook and Twitter during the 2008 election, but not to the extent that they did this year.

Social media experts are hesitant to say that social media was a factor in President Barack Obama’s re-election, but they do agree that social media influenced voters.

According to Pew Research, a polling organization, President Obama posted four times more content than did Republican challenger Mitt Romney. On election night, Obama even used Twitter to thank his 23 million followers.

However, both candidates reached out to voters through social media avenues. Unfortunately, many of their posts were negative to each other.

Following the election, supporters of both candidates took to social media to express their opinions. As you can imagine, Romney supporters weren’t happy with the results.

Donald Trump posted the following comment on Twitter: “We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. This nation is divided.”

And that didn’t always go over well with Facebook and Twitter users. According to Pew Research, 18 percent of Facebook users “unfriended” or blocked someone because of political issues.

I didn’t have Facebook or Twitter accounts in 2008. I’m sure that there are millions of other people who didn’t have accounts as well.

But for this year's election, I followed both candidates closely through social media outlets. I was especially intrigued by some of the comments by my Facebook friends and Twitter followers. I found myself fascinated by all the political bantering.

It was interesting to see where my friends stood on the political spectrum. In fact, Pew Research said 22 percent of registered voters told Facebook friends and Twitter followers how they would vote.

No, I didn’t unfriend people whose political views didn’t match my own. Actually, I enjoyed reading my “friends” and followers’ comments.

Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter are great vehicles for expressing opinions. We’re fortunate to live in a nation where we can disagree with our leaders and potential leaders.

But I have to admit that I was taken aback by some of the negative comments posted on Facebook following the election. My sister, Joyce, posted a comment that she was pleased that Obama had been re-elected. Someone posted a nasty comment on her post.

Facebook has become a convenient outlet for making derogatory comments because it is a lot easier to post on someone's page than to tell someone to their face that you disagree with him or her.

I’ve tried to stay clear of the political scene. I keep my views to myself or just share them with family or friends.

But Facebook isn’t going to go away. You can bet that political candidates will be taking more advantage of social media in future elections.

Just as the first televised debate changed how elections are conducted, so will social media in future elections.

Social media will have a major impact on the 2016 presidential election. Let’s hope there is less negativity. Social media can be a very useful tool if it is used appropriately.



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