Social media and all social networking platforms play a crucial role in our everyday life. As such, it is not surprising that they have become a powerful means of political and social propaganda. The world of politics – just as any other aspect of society – is constantly evolving and trying to use the newest channels of communication to reach out to broader audiences. Social media is a powerful tool to reach young people and to get the attention of distracted and uninterested voters. Therefore, modern politicians try their best to share their thoughts, their opinions and their ideals over Facebook, Twitter and Youtube – the tireless tweets of U.S. President Trump are a clear example of the power of online platforms and of the channels that link us to the leaders of the new world.
Social media affects politics and political choices in many ways:
- Political ideas reach wide audiences: politicians can speak directly to the people without spending millions of dollars in campaigns and propaganda. One tweet, one Facebook live or one video on Youtube that gets a sufficient number of shares or views can work just as well;
- Anyone can be heard: the cost of political campaigns is growing year after year. On social media, anyone can express his/her political views and collect a substantial number of followers and supporters. Although online communication can be misleading, social media can be a useful platform for people who, otherwise, would never have their voices heard;
- Direct confrontation: the idea of the establishment and of the political elite that rules the country from luxurious houses and posh offices has not disappeared, but the growth of social media has shortened the distance between the political elite and the general population. Today, citizens can (somewhat) directly confront their leaders and try to get in touch with them through social platforms;
- Feedback: citizens can use social media to monitor the actions of politicians and, in turn, politicians can use social media to collect feedback and gather useful information. In fact, people feel that they can safely share their views and opinions on online platforms – often without being aware of the fact that most of their comments are read and used by analysts and politicians; and
- Timing: we live in the age of speed and technology. Social media allows news to spread around the world in a matter of minutes (sometimes even seconds). As such, citizens can monitor polls and news in any moment and can access information from a variety of sources.
Social media and online information are revolutionizing our societies, including the world of politics. Communication between politicians and voters is easier, and the actions of the elite are easier to monitor. Yet, at the same time, social media represents the main channel through which fake news and rumors are spread and through which masses can be manipulated. Therefore, we should always base our decisions – in particular those concerning our political stance – on more than one source and we should always use reliable sources of information.