Students use social media to share their best jokes, their latest complaints and their favorite football team’s scores. Twitter and Facebook are the places to go for people’s opinions on everything from Ed Daniel’s latest hairstyle to the political events across our country.
On Oct. 3, Twitter released an announcement saying the first 2012 presidential debate was the most tweeted about event in the sites history. More than 10 million tweets were sent during the Oct. 3 debate.
“I don’t think that you could use social media – Facebook and Twitter – without noticing a political presence,” said Nathan McNichols, sophomore from Metropolis, Ill. “It’s so pushed by both sides of the campaign, both Republican and Democrat, because it’s so easy to get the information out to the people who need the information, the probable voters.”
The presence of politics on social media sites is undeniable, but McNichols would go so far as to argue that sites like Facebook and Twitter have changed the 2012 political race.
“Social media has replaced traditional snail mail as far as reaching out to potential voters – they have more of a targeted audience,” McNichols said. “It has also saved quite a bit of money, they don’t have to pay for postage, buy stationary or stuff of that sort. They can make a quick and easy Facebook post or Twitter announcement, and it reaches a large populous.”
Alexandra Bloodworth, sophomore from Murray, has noticed the influence social media has on political events, as well.
“Social media makes the political race more personal,” Bloodworth said. “Every day I get emails, Twitter updates and Facebook notifications from the Obama campaign. It definitely makes it seem more personal, and makes me feel more connected to the candidates as people.”
Not only has the convergence of politics and social media made the political race more personal, but it has given the younger generations using social media more of a chance to take notice of the race.
“I like seeing a political presence in social media,” Bloodworth said. “It promotes political awareness for young people, something that is very important. I love to see my peers discussing politics, endorsing candidates and the like.”
McNichols said one of the best ways young people utilize social media is as a gathering information outlet.
“I’ve noticed the voting population of the United States has become lazier and lazier when it comes to investigating actual politics,” McNichols said. “I think to combat this the campaigns and the political candidates have made the information accessible just whenever you open up your computer and get on either Facebook or Twitter. If (political) information is there then you don’t have to go searching for it and it’s easier for people to get the information.”
Bloodworth agrees with McNichols by saying she stays informed politically mainly through social media sites.
“I follow President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, the DNC (Democratic National Convention), the Senate and Congress floor and C-SPAN on Twitter,” Bloodworth said. “I’ve also liked their official Facebook page. I feel like it’s a good way for me to stay informed and get easy, fast updates regarding politics.”
Following the accounts and “liking” the pages of presidential and vice presidential Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, as well as accounts that are affiliated with their campaign and unbiased news sources, is the easiest way for McNichols to stay up-to-date on political events.
“The reason why I follow those (social media pages) is just for convenience,” McNichols said. “It’s convenient to be able to open up something that I would normally get on and get that information without having to go find a TV, sit down, watch a news story or go find and read a newspaper. I can just get the information doing something I would normally do anyway.”
The ability to stay informed on politics is an important concept for McNichols.
“Where there are more informed voters there is going to be a better informed turnout rate,” McNichols said.
Social media is even being used to keep Murray State students informed of political events happening on campus.
“I am in charge of PR for College Democrats and I use social media, Facebook and Twitter to get the word out about our events and meeting times,” Bloodworth said. “It’s an easy, cheap and effective way to spread the word and promote political awareness.”
Although students can easily use social media to spread political awareness, there are a few things students should be wary of when combining their profiles and political views.
“There are tasteful ways for posting information about politics on Facebook and then there are distasteful ways,” McNichols said. “If you are allowed to express your opinion, you should accept the fact that others are also allowed to do so. That being said, I am not advocating the idea of going out and deliberately picking nasty, personal fights on Facebook just because someone disagrees with your political standpoint.”
Bloodworth said deconstructive arguments regarding politics posted on social media sites can discourage people from taking an active role in politics.
However, the social media world spent more time with witty comments than arguments on Oct. 3. Famous figureheads, students and campaign-affiliated social media accounts took the presidential debate as an opportunity to share their political thoughts and quips.
Chris Rock (@chrisrockoz) tweeted, “Romney said he wants to cut funding for PBS. Oscar the Grouch is like, ‘Seriously??I already live in a garbage can.’ #debate #forwardnotback.”
Another tweet from Conan O’Brien (@ConanOBrien) said, “A study says a candidate who blinks the most in a debate almost always loses the election. #WhyGilbertGottfriedCantBePresident.”
Whether the tweets were bashing the moderator or the presidential candidates, the most recent political event record on Twitter showed that social media and politics are becoming more and more intertwined.
Story by Maddie Mucci, Staff writer.