Tuesday, 27 September 2016

#DebateNight and the Power of Social Media


Prior to last night’s first Presidential Debate there was a lot of talk around debates of the past such as JFK/Nixon in 1960 and how that ultimately shaped the race to the White House. Fast forward to 2016 and Social Media means these debates have even more gravity. It’s not just about what candidates say on stage, it’s about the online conversation.

Social Media Scholar danah boyd ‘Social Media: A phenomenon to be Analysed’ (2015: p2) states that “social media has gone from being a dream of Silicon Valley technologists to a central part of contemporary digital culture”. This was illustrated last night by the emphasis news oulets placed on things like who was talked about most on Twitter, and what were the most talked about issues. 

Candidates have a real time idea of the psyche of the electorate like never before! This voice of the people has become the norm in recent years. Anybody, anywhere can have a say and participate in the debate, and depending on their follower count, make their own impact. It’s not just about what US citizens do at the ballot box, social media is the modern day equivalent of knocking on doors, and you can knock on them regardless of geography.

It should be noted that Trump and Clinton aren’t the only one’s going for votes this November, believe it or not other candidates exist. Among them is the Green Party Candidate Dr. Jill Stein, who truly used the power of social media during the debate. Despite not being invited to participate, due to her polling numbers not being good enough, Dr. Stein was still able to vocalise her views on the issues being discussed, in real time, via her social media channels. In particular Dr. Stein adopted the hash tag #OccupyTheDebates to ensure she was at least heard online, giving as she would argue, a true alternative from the main stream candidates.


Dr. Stein is probably getting attention she would never have received before the dawn of Social Media. Even I, as someone who is an avid follower of US politics, had no clue of this other female candidate for President, but my ignorance was soon informed thanks to social media.

In her article Danah Boyd makes clear that social media is a phenomenon which has been taken around the globe at "unprecedented" speed and these big TV events really demonstrate that, I can understand why Boyd states it is "imperative to analyse the phenomenon of social media", as it really does, in my opinion, have the ability to decide massive decisions like who becomes the next US President.

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