July 21, 2019 | 83° F

LILIKAS: Politics can be considered catch-22 of social media

Opinions Column: Digital Canvas


It is clear that this election is unlike any of the preceding ones. Because of this, the dynamic of the political race is going through a huge change. Our overused social media sites have become the newest political tool. Anyone with a Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr — you name it — has been able to post their view points on our candidates all over the internet. A lot of millennials didn’t get the chance to vote in the Presidential Election of 2012, but four years have thus passed and it seems as if everyone is a politician in 2016 with the help of this new tool. I have never been one to get too involved in our government's affairs, however, at this point it is nearly impossible to turn a blind eye. It has become so simple for people to voice their outlook on our country’s state of affairs, merely with the click of a button. So, considering all of this, the questions I keep asking myself is whether social media is ruining politics, or if politics is starting to ruin social media? There is no clear-cut answer because both politics and social media seem to be diminishing in value, given that these two things hold such a tremendous influence in American culture.

The future of our country is a stake, so there is nothing more important right now than America’s participation in this election. Our mindless use of social media has never before been able to represent this so distinctly, nor has it ever had such a powerful impact on voters. But because it so clearly does, it has given critics the ability to amplify all of the wrong things. Whether it is the petty banter between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton or a blog post about candidate conspiracy theories, the vast audience on the internet can see all impolitic messages sent into cyberspace. No matter how ridiculous, there will be someone out there that will believe some of the click-bait junk on the internet. And with that, social media has made it easy to twist the words of our candidates. Out of an hourlong debate, five seconds of a rebuttal can be taken out of context and become the hot topic of a provocative online discussion. Then it becomes easy for millions to criticize, making reporters and journalists aware of such discourse, and this domino effect is how things eventually go viral. This is how points of view becomes polarized, making the candidates feel the need to make this election a dirtier game than it already is. The commercials on TV are petty, their tweets are petty, politics have become petty. Both candidates, one more than another, are showing how immature they can be online, and, in the media in this 2016 election, it is starting to make society believe the next presidency will be a joke of one.

Not only that, but with the seriousness of the election slowly diminishing with every new meme, social media is becoming a political minefield. I am so tired of scrolling through statuses on Facebook as long as essays about how crooked one candidate is or how vulgar another is. Can’t we just get back to posting our vacation photos and engagement announcements? Whether I disagree with someone or not, it is stressful seeing people trying to throw their views in another’s face. While some enjoy this and thrive for the opportunity to debate in the comments section, there are a good number of people out there willing to press that “unfollow” or “unfriend” button. The pleasantries of spending hours online are no longer there. Conversations can easily go awry online and dodging visceral political statements is a loser’s game.

This is the first election in which participation on social media is likely to be at an all-time high, having a distinct influence on the electorate. It has its obvious negatives, a catch-22, but 140 characters is, surprisingly, all you need to open the floodgates. But even with all the bad, Facebook, Twitter, etc. makes it easy to stay (semi) informed and start a conversation, no matter which relatives you might get into an argument with. Facts can obviously get skewed and opinions will always be biased, but having even the slightest inkling of our wavering political climate is a great thing for people like me who find it difficult to fully immerse themselves in the political happenings. Obviously, right? Because here I am writing about it. All of these different platforms allow the informed, the uninformed and the blissfully unaware to see a plethora of different political opinions and ultimately allow them to find a candidate to side with on Nov. 8.

Epatia Lilikas is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in English and economics. Her column, “Digital Canvas,” runs monthly on Wednesdays.

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Epatia Lilikas

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