By now, it has become evident that Twitter and Politics go hand in hand. Wait a sec, Twitter goes hand in hand with a lot of things; technology, news (fake or legit), ongoing real life events etc. – politics is just one branch of this ginormous tree.
While I am hopeful that Twitter regains its fame n’ fortune like in the old days, I wanted to write about politics in particular. Since 2007 and 2012, the Twitter network has seen a massive escalation in user population, demographics and overall number of tweets. Some argue that the Obama administration created the “ripple” effect during the initial election campaign. The world never expected a 140 character microblogging service to play a role in reshaping lives, media events and politics, but that’s how it is.
The Dawn of Twitter Politics
In 2007, when Barack Obama was a mere candidate, his first tweet was, “Thinking we’re only one signature away from ending the war in Iraq.” It is entirely another thing how the actual events played out in later years, but Twitter played a flagship role in making its way through all these years as an effective tool for politicians.
Whenever a tweet made an impact, it became viral. Especially if we look at the recent events, the aggressive exchange of wise-crack comments between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fueled the popularity factor for Twitter. While many people are against Twitter for allowing politicians and ordinary people to exchange a rather liberal view on current affairs, we do not want the Twitter network to shutdown or dissolve anytime soon.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not a diehard Twitter fan. It is just that I am looking at the picture from bird’s eye view. I’ve had my share of trolls, nasty buggers and death threats from 16-year-olds who have nothing better to do from the comfort of their dear mom’s basement, but I am still in favor of letting Twitter do its thing. Here’s why this amazing social media platform is still the voice of reason from many political aspects.
Twitter is Original
Twitter was the earliest trend setter in microblogging sector. The 140 character limit (*although extended now under certain preset rules) leaves no room for any long explanations, lengthy statements, political banter and vice versa.
Users can’t actually play around with words; they have to get to the point or waste time while doing so. It is like one of those real time small talks; past the casual Hello’s and Hi’s, you get straight to the point. During the election campaign, Twitter played a central role in giving an opportunity to people to connect with senators, congressmen, local figures and etc.
Politicians were made aware of keynote issues as a result of viral tweets with hashtags embedded in them. However, a lot of people abused the system to spread hatred, fake news, and such atrocities. I, for one, do blame Twitter in failing to keep the trolls in check, because it is one of the main reasons for driving away loyal users.
Precisely speaking, during the last few months, Twitter literally reflected Newton’s third law. For every single tweet, there was a rhetorical comeback either in a dumbest possible way or something truly inspirational. Trump’s tweets were mostly aggressive, and as much as people negatively portrayed his actions, the viral factor was still there.
Wait, there is Facebook for Politics too!
Yes, Facebook is great but it is not meant for microblogging, pep talk or direct user engagement. Over the last couple of years, Facebook made a lot of changes to introduce new features, but some of them don’t offer what Twitter is offering. In some ways, Facebook’s reputation surpasses Twitter’s, and that’s good because we could use a little both of both flavors.
However, the idea of logging on to Facebook, navigating through newsfeed or typing down your thoughts in the Status message section just isn’t a politician’s cup of tea. At times, when you have gone beyond the Facebook default, character limit, the additional text is covered via “See More” option, do you honestly think you have the time to read through all that drama? There are better tools for that.
The herd mentality at Twitter
According to Nielsen and Pew reports, Twitter is the preferred medium for user engagement especially when a real life historic event is going on. As a matter of fact, the White House itself witnessed the “political Twitter” trend precisely when Trump was taking oath, and earlier when Obama presidential press conferences were in motion.
Most of the influential people in D.C. are well connected with one another through Twitter. Therefore, when someone sets things, or rather a tweet in motion, everyone follows up with their “valued” input. It wouldn’t be wrong to call it an echo chamber, except for the fact that this one is electronic and even the media gets its news sources from it sometimes.
To say the least, it was under strict anonymity policy, when a staffer from Mitt Romney’s campaign said that he is perfectly content with citing news from Twitter and preselling the package to The Corner or National Review for some financial endorsement of course…
Imagine that some sort of useful information leaked to someone influential at social media, what would be the repercussions afterwards? It doesn’t matter if the news is legit or fake, just look at it from an unbiased perspective because many people think that Twitter is flaming hatred and the negativity culture. No, it is not Twitter’s fault, it is the result of actions taken by keyboard warriors from all over the world.
Will Twitter Play Part in 2020 Elections?
Undoubtedly, granted that Twitter is still there in one form or another. At the moment, Twitter is not faring well, and the decisions made today will affect whether this social media company will be there in future or not. However, Twitter will have a major role to play in upcoming political campaigns.
And it is not just the U.S. that uses Twitter for political agendas. According to Evo Morales, former President of Bolivia, the United States deployed over 10 social media activists/ experts who played a vital role in usurping the Bolivian electoral campaign. Morales couldn’t win, and was replaced eventually because of some sort of “conspiracy” at Twitter.
In a press conference, Evo Morales said, “We were defeated by social media. The United States sent 12 Twitter experts to defeat us.” Morales’ statements is too broad for argument, but he did have a point. Twitter was used to some extent during the Bolivian elections; it caused vote casters to change their mind. Such kind of revolutionary change takes month to come into effect, but with Twitter, it all happened in few weeks’ time.
It is speculated that by the time a voter is close to a ballot box, he or she will have already made up his/her mind in favor or against the said candidates in future elections. Though, it is a premature argument because a lot can go on between today and 2020, let’s keep a close eye on social media, technology and Twitter as a politician’s plan B.
edited by Danil Rudoy – February 2017