As technological advancement continues to reshape the boundaries of possibility, different and increasingly diverse worlds are bound to collide. Social media is central to this scenario, as it is an entity that has evolved significantly since its inception in 2005 and developed dual functionality as both a personal and professional networking resource. As a result of this, numerous political, educational and commercial organisations now rely on social media as a pivotal communication tool.
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Politics and Social Media: An Uneasy and yet Prosperous Union
The relationship between social media and politics remains particularly fascinating, as despite being a slightly uneasy union it provides the opportunity for far greater communication between those in power and the general public. With the number of social media users having increased every year since 2005, politicians have subsequently identified resources such as Facebook and Twitter as being key to communicating with numerous demographics. Given that social media allows political leaders and MP’s to reach a wider target audience than ever before, the two entities have been forced to exist in relative harmony.
While the sheer volume of social media users is worthy of consideration, however, it is the nature of remote communication and its soaring popularity that is truly significant. With the influential teen demographic known to favour social media as their primary method of communication, there is ample opportunity for political parties to capitalise and win crucial support among the emerging generation. This is something that politicians would be unwise to ignore, especially if their rival candidates are already using the medium to interact with voters.
The Pitfalls: Where Social Media and Politics Clash
Regardless of the size or scope of the opportunity, however, the relationship between social media and politics is far from harmonious. There have been numerous controversies that have blighted the union over the course of the last seven years, with several MP’s having alienated voters and even lost their jobs over ill-judged comments. The open, transparent and public nature of social media makes it an extremely challenging forum for politicians, especially given the lack of moderation or stringent regulatory guidelines.
Perhaps even more worrying for politicians is the real time nature of social media interaction, as comments made in the heat of the moment cannot simply be withdrawn or erased. If you imagine the micro-blogging site Twitter as a specific example, then it easy to see how attempting to deliver succinct and accurate messages in real time can cause significant issues for politicians who are unfamiliar with the format. There is also the additional issue of the voters themselves, who are able to converse freely with politicians and pose direct and often challenging questions through the medium of social media.
The Bottom Line
With the number of Facebook users alone now in excess of 850 million, there is no doubt that political parties will develop an even greater presence on social media sites in the coming years. They must be prepared and well trained for this eventuality, however, and become comfortable with the nature of concise and real time interaction before becoming active. In addition to this, they must also be willing to communicate in an open and honest manner with voters, as otherwise they run the risk of damaging their reputation and that of their political party.