Sharing, sharing and more sharing. That is what drives social media. Sharing thoughts, ideas and opinions has never been easier, and the sharing culture that we are fast becoming a part of, actively encourages us to do so.
The backbone of democracy is also rooted within the notion of sharing. Dahl’s ’empirical conditions for democracy’ include ‘freedom of expression’ and the ‘right to information other than from official sources’ People should be able to speak freely and openly, and this is being made easier by the open nature of social media.
Social media and politics were always going to cross paths, it is a given. The two fit naturally together, with shared values and especially as a political campaign could vastly benefit from a well executed social media campaign. The level playing field provided across all types of social media platforms gives everyone and anyone the equal opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions.
There is a hugely powerful side to the political aspect of social media. This became apparent during the Arab Spring of 2011, where platforms like Facebook and Twitter played a huge role in exchanging ideas and notions of unrest. Protests were coordinated online, proving the pure power of social media within the political spectrum. The Egyptian government even took steps to shut down the countries internet access in order to prevent access to social media sites, to try and prevent fully coordinated gatherings. Whilst this is an obvious abuse of power, the gesture itself shows the real threat felt by the government from the power of social media and it’s effects on politics.
Of course a far more positive way that social media has been used in the political arena was during the most recent general election in 2010, which was the first one held since the phenomenon that is social media has taken off. Some called it ‘The Social Media Election‘. Voters were able to exchange their thoughts on each party and their respective policies as well as being able to discuss the televised debates as they were happening, providing an deeper insight into what the electorate was feeling than had previously ever been attained.
Social media and politics have a strong connection and have proved that they can directly have an effect on each other. If used effectively, social media has proved it can infinitely versatile and powerful in shaping the political landscape.