GE2015 minus 49: Elections and social media

Posted: 19 March 2015 in general election 2015, internet, politics
Tags: , ,

Not long before the 2008 US presidential election, I went to an event put on by the US Foreign Correspondents Association. As I said yesterday, I’ve long been fascinated by American Politics and the 2008 election looked to be catnip to a politics junkie like me. I don’t remember most of the evening, although I recall that Bonnie Greer made the most sense of anyone there. 

But one item mentioned definitely struck home, and stuck: that this was the first election of any note since the invention of YouTube. YouTube had become so ubiquitous in the three years since it was launched that it was genuinely difficult to think of it not being around. And, while that election had a number of YouTube themed things going on – speeches by the candidates, early mashups of music and candidates, etc., this would only grow and become more important to the electoral process as time passed. The first British election which was enhanced by/infected by* (*delete as appropriate) social media was the 2010 election, and it’s a toss up how much of the election’s result was – at the very least –  influenced by social media. I think that, given that it was the first one, an enormous amount.



And it’ll be even worse this time around. Every party has a social media presence; they’re all on facebook, instagram, Twitter – oh lord are they on Twitter – and the rest. And every candidate is there as well. And everyone who has a view on the election is also on there.  As we get closer to the election, I’m wondering at what point my Twitter feed, say, will be so election-based that if I started muting common political expressions and party soundbites, it’s effectively fall silent.

Yeah, I know, that’s a slight overreaction and exaggeration, but what the hell; if the politicians can overreact and exaggerate, so can I. And they will. Every tiny mistake by another party will be tweeted and facebooked as a major gaffe. A semi-decent speech will be linked to by hundreds, if not thousands, proclaiming it to be the most effective oration since Homer. And every poster put out by either party will be photoshopped by the party’s opponents to make mock of the party, the poster’s concept, and of course the idiots who believe the party has their best interests at heart. And then the mashups will start…

And I’m already fed up with just the idea. 

But here’s the thing.

You’re not allowed to be fed up with it. You’re not permitted to say “enough”. If you’ve already made your mind up about the election, then you’re expected to join in, and if you haven’t yet come to a conclusion, well, everyone has an obligation to try and change your mind, don’t they?  Last time I checked, roughly one in three people eligible to vote said they hadn’t yet decided how to vote yet. I’m one of them, but so many friends of mine seem to treat that attitude as one of benign neglect at best and an utter and abject abdication of responsibility at worst. How can you want the current government to continue? You don’t? Well then, the only responsible course is to vote [insert party of choice)”.

That’s to mistake patient consideration for indecision, and a need for more information for apathy.

And that’s leaving aside the small points that (a) most people’s votes won’t make a difference; they live in a ‘safe’ constituency, and (b) we vote for a single member of parliament, and whether that party happens to form the government or not depends on how every other person votes much more than how I do.

But more about that tomorrow.

Finally, returning to social media… one of the best things about Twitter is the speed with which false stories are debunked; one of the more annoying consequences of the speed of distribution is that the debunking will never reach as many people as the original story. So, remember to check before you hit RT on that link suggesting a Cabinet Minister faked his expenses for the past five years, or a Shadow minister has been fucking a goat in his neighbour’s constituency.

And, ignore every one of the “RT for party x, Fav for party y” crap. the very definition of self-selecting polls.

Until tomorrow.

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