In an increasingly technological world, it's hard to separate our social media accounts from the rest of our daily lives. With the 2016 presidential election just five weeks away, the political scene is now more heated than ever. Numerous news sites and political pundits are claiming that millennial voters are the most crucial demographic to win over in this election. As a result, the two candidates have turned their attention to social media campaigns. Here's a list of seven ways social media can influence voters in this election — for better or for worse.
1. College students are more engaged in politics.
The popularity of Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media avenues allows collegiate-age voters to be more in tune to the happenings of the presidential race. Social media often reveals the true character of a person and numerous political discussions this year have revolved around Clinton and Trump's Twitter accounts. This is because voters, especially millennials, are paying attention to what the candidates are saying because they see it in their feeds all of the time. Additionally, political ads circulate on social media, and therefore often have a larger viewing audience of college students. The popularization of social media campaigning has allowed college students to engage more with the political process.
2. It's easier to get out the vote and get to know candidates.
I wouldn't be surprised if a link to complete voter registration was the most popular thing tweeted this year. Thanks to the expansion of online voter registration, it's easier for citizens to sign up to access the polls on Election Day. Social media gives college students fast access to sign up to vote, because they can do it from the comfort of their bed while watching Netflix or as they're darting across campus to their next class. Additionally, information about the candidates is more easily circulated, because certain sites — Twitter and Facebook, for example — give way to profiles, websites, videos and pictures that allow us to see into the lives of our potential presidents.
3. Social media can create a less informed electorate.
Bandwagon voters are a major concern for election analysts this year. Since social media makes it more possible to learn who your friends are voting for, the potential to vote based on others' opinions is likely. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are often referred to as the "lesser of two evils," and hearing personal arguments from friends on Twitter and Instagram might sway votes.
4. It promotes more bias.
It's not that difficult to identify which news sites align with either side of the political spectrum. Thanks to the infiltration of bias into pictures, headlines and other social media posts, people make snap judgments about candidates and political situations immediately after reading an article. However, depending on where this article comes from, the initial outlook could be skewed. Additionally, pictures on social media evoke emotions in voters that cause them to want to vote a certain way. Take one of Hillary Clinton's recent Instagram photos, for example. Posting a picture of a grandma figure hugging an adorable child was a great move by the PR operatives for the Clinton campaign. However, one picture on Instagram or 140 characters on Twitter only tells so much of the story.
5. Twitter and Facebook promote negative political discourse.
All college students have experienced this. Thank you, Grandma Betty, for starting a family feud on Facebook about whether or not Trump's plan to defeat ISIS is valid. Seriously, nothing good happens in political discussions on Facebook. Unfortunately, social media often promotes more argumentation and less conversation and education. To learn how to keep your social media discussions classy, check out Fresh U's advice here.
6. Connecting with others online can give a false sense of comfort.
While there's nothing inherently wrong with tweeting about praying and feeling sad when tragedy strikes the United States or the international community, it often masks the strong need for actual policy change. This is dangerous to the state of politics in the United States. Social media campaigns to change Facebook profile pictures to honor victims in tragedies are noble, and it helps us feel safer when we see our friends and family band together against terrorism on Facebook and Twitter. Although these affirmations of sorrowful feelings can be healthy sometimes, they can also promote a false sense of comfort, or even worse, make scapegoats out of individuals or groups when tragedy hits home.
7. Politics permeate our daily lives.
Like it or not, political posts are all over social media, all day, every day. Even if you personally don't follow news sites, one of your politically charged friends is likely to post something online at some point. College students' votes are crucial in this election, and even though social media can positively influence politics, it can also skew opinions and votes. Using discretion and being mindful of what candidates post online is important when making your decision on November 8th.
Needless to say, this election is crucial no matter which way you look at it. Our country's future rests in the hands of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, and it's important to make your voice heard. And if you haven't registered to vote yet, you can even register on Snapchat.
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