The Importance of Social Media in Politics: Horizontal Movements

Social media is something I’ve never really been actively engaged in aside from the occasional group project chat on Facebook and creating a LinkedIn account. Now I find myself having a hard time staying away, joining other social media outlets including Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. I no longer only follow friends but also political figures and news sources. In all honesty, Twitter is probably the main place where I get my news, reading articles posted by the New York Times and The Economist (that is for the limited free articles they let you read) and tweets from Unites States Senators.

In the book “Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics” Harvey emphasizes the immense impact social media has in shaping the current American political process, stating that there has been a paradigm shift from measuring how industrialized nations are to how “informationalized” they are. That is the “ability to collect, generate, store, transmit, interpret, share and hoard big data”, ranking nations from informationalized, emerging, hybrid industrialized/ information societies and non informationalized. Because of this change, there is a need to measure the impact social media has in the political sphere.

Social media works as a way of community a message to a mass group of people, but as the article argues, many people respond to it as a one to one contact. This plays a role in social media and candidate politics, allowing current or future political figures to increase voter turnout and donations. The Obama-Romney election of 2012 is a prime example of reaching out to a massive audience through the use of social media. These are examples of how organized groups use social medias to help their cause.

On the other end, there is the rise of horizontal movements that lack the hierarchal organization of other movements. These “leaderless movements” as stated in “Bringing the Organization Back In: Social Media and Social Movements”, allow people to organize for causes without the need of an organization. During my time in Washington D.C., I noticed how many protests were going on that were not attached to a certain organization but a reaction to the current political climate. Social media was used to increase political participation, although there wasn’t always great turnout due to a lack of organization.

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