Social Media: Is it Tarnishing our Elections?”

By Collin Clark

In 2020, social media impacts almost everybody in America. Altering opinions and spreading news at a brilliantly fast rate, social media has even cemented itself as a part of our election process. Newspapers, to radio, to television, to twitter, we are in a position where Social Media has taken over the globe, so how much does it impact our Election in the U.S.?

Former President Eisenhower’s success was carried forward by television, giving him the title “TV President” as he visited the living rooms of voters during campaigns, and throughout his presidency. With his success using television, he set the framework for John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon to carefully study television which lead to triumph – This begins what Kathryn Cramer Brownell calls “the era of showbiz politics”.

Bill Clinton was an early user of the “new media,” utilizing unusual venues for a presidential candidate: televised town meetings, appearances on previously verboten morning and late-night talk shows, interactive call-in programs, and even MTV.

Skipping ahead, we find ourselves in 2008, having elected our first African American President, Barack Obama. More than half the adult population were online political users. Three-quarters of internet users went online during the 2008 election to take part in or get news and information about the 2008 campaign. This represents 55 percent of the entire adult population and marks the first time the Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that more than half the voting-age population used the internet to connect to the political process during an election cycle.

We are now in an era where 60 percent of internet users go online for political and campaign news. Thirty-eight percent of people are engaging in political conversation during the campaign and 59 percent of individuals are sharing emails, tweets, texts, or instant messages relative to campaign information. That is a massive change in the fundamentals of political communication taking place over just a few years.

As the size of the online political audience grows, the internet has officially become front-and-center for media consumption, though television still leading as the dominant source of political news.

In the 2016 election, we find ourselves at an all-time high for political media consumption. We now come face to face with “Fake News”, which spreads freely all over the internet, posing threats to media consumers, and the journalists spreading the news coverage.

The 2020 election has seen the return of hyper-political social media with issues like targeted misinformation, the release of individuals’ personal information, and the influence of foreign powers in our elections.

Both Twitter and Facebook have begun flagging posts from public figures when disinformation is contained therein, although the way these flags look differs considerably.

It is difficult to trust the news today. Spoiled by the open world of the internet and the news sources that reporters are led to feed from. Who are you to trust today when “fake news” is still running rampant?

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