The connection between social media and politics fascinates me. There are two main reasons for this:

1. People are hilarious.
2. Social media has such a large impact on our society that it blows my mind.

For an undecided voter, Twitter or Facebook could quite possibly influence IF they’re going to vote, WHO they’re going to vote for, and WHY they decided to vote for that candidate. One could argue that the social media activity surrounding politics and political events, such as the Presidential debates, could be more influential than the actual debates themselves!

Speaking of which, lately I’ve found myself  wondering:

How boring were the Presidential debates before social media?!

They may not have been THAT boring, but they couldn’t have been as entertaining as they are now! Over the past few weeks my Twitter feed has come to life on debate nights. The tweets are coming so fast that by the time I catch up I’m 30 behind again! I can’t respond to people fast enough, I’m retweeting and favoriting like crazy, and I LOVE it. Why? Because these political tweets are entertaining.

Deciding who to vote for is a very serious matter. It’s a decision that should be made after thoroughly researching both candidates and their stances on the issues you care about–but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a 90-minute break every now and then!

Sit back, relax, and laugh at two politicians who are stuck in a room together pretending to be friends while simultaneously insulting each other. It’s the American way! You can make up your mind about which candidate you liked/hated more after everything is fact-checked. In the meantime, enjoy yourself and the hilarious tweets and Facebook statuses pouring through your social media feeds.

Confession time: This concept of this post wasn’t entirely my idea. It was actually inspired by a friend of mine who tweeted me on Monday, the night of the third (and final) Presidential debate:

My first reaction was to completely agree. This IS great theater. If it weren’t, websites like CNN, TIME, and The Huffington Post wouldn’t have articles dedicated to the funniest tweets of the debate. Some of which include:

From CNN:

From TIME (Note- This is a Barack Obama parody account):

From The Huffington Post:

My second reaction was to take in exactly what he said. “Twitter has revolutionized the debates.” That got me thinking: Not only are these hilarious political tweets great theater, they also have the potential to be very influential. Like my friend said, Twitter (along with other forms of social media) is revolutionizing these debates, and humor isn’t the only thing causing this revolution.

Another reason I love political tweets (aside from their entertainment value) is because they strengthen my political opinions. They make me proud to support a candidate that I believe in, and reaffirm that I’m happy with my decision. The influence social media has on me, a person who’s 100% sure of who she’s voting for, makes me question how much undecided voter can be influenced by an entertaining news feed or timeline.

The sheer number of political tweets that were sent during these debates shows the role social media plays in politics. According to Twitter, 6.5 million tweets were sent during the third Presidential debate. 7.2 million were sent during the second debate, and 10 million were sent during the first debate (a record for a U.S. political debate). Politico newspaper correspondent Tony Romm agrees that social media is an extremely important aspect of politics:

“There is a piece of information . . .and it begins to bounce around, essentially. It’s shared, it’s repeated. It reverberates . . . When a [social media] user shares a news story about something a candidate has done. And then, that begins to explode, eventually winding up in major newspapers, making major headlines across the country. So, it has a huge effect.”

How huge, exactly? A recent survey from Ask Your Target Market reported that 5% of potential voters said that their political opinions have been impacted very much by social media posts, and 21% said that their opinions have been somewhat impacted by social media. Those numbers aren’t HUGE, but they still exist, and with social media constantly growing those numbers are sure to increase in the next four years.

These Presidential debates have once again proven that social media is an incredibly powerful medium, and it’s continually increasing its impact on our society.

Tags: facebook, obama, presidential debates, presidential election, romney, social influence, Social Media, twitter

  • Trevin

    I’ve actually found much of the election conversation on Twitter to be terribly uninformative. The tough thing with Twitter is that it helps further polarize everybody…Pro Obama/Romney people are likely to only follow/share other accounts that share their same views and perspective. It ends up being both sides taking to themselves and a bunch of people making the same jokes. I don’t see anybody changing their opinion from discourse on Twitter, only further strengthening the views that they already have.

    Then again, I don’t like politics to begin with so I might be overly cynical 😀

  • I think Twitter can be informative if you follow legitimate news sources, that’s how I keep up with the big headlines! (More so than any other form of news). You’re definitely right about the polarization factor. I follow people who support both candidates, but every time I see a tweet about the candidate that I DON’T support it just strengthens my support of the candidate that I DO support.

    But I’m really strong in my political beliefs. What I’m curious about is how much Twitter (and Facebook) can influence a voter who’s interested in politics and the election, but is also on-the-fence or undecided about who they’re going to vote for.

    Whether or not the tweets are informative or not is kind of irrelevant (sadly). A lot of people make uniformed decisions; they see a tweet or status and they believe it without researching whether or not it’s true. That’s a negative about social media’s role in politics, but I don’t think it takes away from the impact or power the medium holds in our society.