A definitive point for modern politics was during the 2010 elections when social media dramatically changed voting trends. As discussed by Nic Newman in “Mainstream media and the role of the internet,” these were the first elections to receive unprecedented participation online.
Following the shocking stats that 90% of 18-24 year olds do not read a newspaper, political campaigns took to TV, radio and facebook in an attempt to reach younger audiences, and it worked. In particular, an increase in activity could be seen among this age group whose activity increased by 7% between 2005 and 2010.
And why wouldn’t it? At least 1 in 4 of us Brits spend more time online than we do sleeping according to a poll created by Sky Broadband. The survey revealed that 51 per cent of us are suffering from ‘e-anxiety’ if we are unable to check our emails or Facebook page for any extended period of time.
Head of Digital engagement at The Guardian, Meg Pickard, suggests that online enrichment of different views is where social media shines. She said “Where we have seen social media come alive in this campaign is where it has been able to add extra perspective and community or social discovery and fun in the case of posters and playfulness.”
Participation in influential elections and enriching an online community is enviably so important, but what are the downsides to reliance on social media?
Twitter contains information from official and unofficial sources where messages arrive in the order that they are received. Perfect for keeping up-to-date with what people are doing all around the world, but not so perfect in terms of filtering the fact from fiction.
Alfred Herminda in “Twittering the news” suggests that as a result of this, journalists should be open to gate keeping the twitter feed. He describes journalists as a “node in a complex environment between technology and society, between news and analysis between annotation and selection, between orientation and investigation.”
If social media is going to be used by influential professionals, should we expect journalists to filter and gate keep what comes up in our news feed? And if they did, would that take away from the freedom we have as individuals to express ourselves online?
I think the wealth of information available to us should remain exactly that. If we want to learn the facts it should be up to us to decipher what is worth spending our precious 9 hours of internet time giving hits to.
We wouldn’t sacrifice our precious sleep over it if this was the case..