By: Jacqueline F. Bonar
The media has always played a significant role in politics and it all started when the First Amendment established “freedom of the press.” According to Andra Brichacek, it is a journalist’s job to give the American voters unbiased and accessible information in an attempt to educate them about those running for office. Now, in 2020, a pandemic and election season is upon us, and social media will end up playing a key role in political campaigns throughout the upcoming months.
Social Media and Its Effect on Democracy
Social media has given average American citizens a fast and easy way to interact with elected and potential officials. By allowing people to communicate freely, social media has amplified important voices by allowing individuals to signal issues they see as most important and engage in conversation easily, especially with elected and potential officials. As well as amplifying voices, social media can help show us diverse views and perspectives, as well as provide a place for informed debate between those with the same or opposing views. A study by political communication researcher, Kajsa Falasca, Ph.D., “Social media campaigning: who is working for whom? A conceptual exploration of digital political labor,” looked at the last general election in Sweden. During early research, the study showed that Facebook and Twitter were being used more as a billboard instead of an enabler of dialogue between politicians and citizens. The parties ended up using their social media platforms as a channel for advertising instead of as a way to meet potential voters and create meaningful discussion. Even though this study is based in Sweden, the same could be said for America.
Filter Bubbles in Social Media
When talking about social media and politics as one, it is important to mention filter bubbles and echo chambers. Today, more people tend to gather political information and engage in political discussion through social media than in person (Boston University College of Communication 2018). With this being said, people tend to engage and consume content that aligns with their beliefs, rather than look at opposing views or consume all sides. The search engines and social networking sites we use are constantly personalizing content based on previous searches, likes and shares. This leads social media users down the “filter bubble” road. The filter bubble is where your timeline is filled with like-minded opinions, politics, hobbies or interests. Since social media tends to know all of this about us, they can “share” or “sell” your filter bubble to advertisers, hence those political ads during an election year. Since social media is rapidly evolving, technology and social media platforms have the power to make us more connected or isolated than ever (CNN Business 2016). The question on whether these filter bubbles are good or bad for us is all based on opinion and still remains unanswered.
Social Media and Political Campaigns
For someone who wants work in politics and on all things digital, especially social media, a career to keep in mind is political media strategist. According to Study.com, someone in this position would be responsible for the public relations side of the candidates campaign. This job could include but is not limited to drafting speeches, creating and posting social media content, assisting the candidate with developing their campaign platform and creating and distributing advertisements for and on all forms of social media. A few more important tasks include, evaluating poll trends and contacting media agencies such as newspapers, websites or TV stations to obtain pricing for running campaign ads. A candidate’s political media strategist manages all things digital within the campaign.
When I declared a major in strategic communication with an emphasis in public relations in Fall 2017 and two minors the following years in general business and strategic social media, I never thought that I’d link it with politics. Once I realized you could link the two, I decided that I would like to work in politics in the future. My dream job is to become the White House director of strategic communications.
Boston University College of Communication. (2018, December 2). Will social media usage lead to political polarization through filter bubbles? Retrieved Sept. 24, 2020, from https://sites.bu.edu/cmcs/2018/12/02/will-social-media-usage-lead-to-political-polarization-through-filter-bubbles？/.
Brichacek, A. Six ways the media influence elections. Retrieved Sept. 25, 2020, from https://journalism.uoregon.edu/news/six-ways-media-influences-elections.
CNN Business. (2016, December 19). How social media filter bubbles work. Retrieved Sept. 25, 2020, from https://youtu.be/doWZHFnVPQ8.
Mid Sweden University. How does the political parties use social media? Who is actually working for whom? Retrieved Sept. 24, 2020, from https://www.miun.se/en/Research/archive/how-do-the-parties-use-social-media-who-is-actually-working-for-whom/.
Study.com. (2020, May 30). Political media strategist: job description & salary. Retrieved Sept. 25, 2020, from https://study.com/articles/political_media_strategist_job_description_salary.html.