Social Media’s Role in the Election

By: Carson Pace

This election will go down as one of the most difficult for voters because it was a very personal decision: both candidates came with lots of baggage and lots of negativity. It is well noted that the country became even more divided than it ever was, but what is never mentioned is the effect it had on people at a personal level. People were affected in ways that will never be reported by CNN or any other news source.

It’s hard to report on something that isn’t seen by everyone. Behind the scenes people were torn apart because of political views which were widely radicalized in this election and further marginalized people on one side of the political spectrum or the other. This caused large divisions between friends, families, and peers. People disassociated from people who disagreed with them, further creating the illusion of us versus them. This, in turn, marginalizes people just for having a certain political view. There were those somewhere in the middle of the spectrum who got between the two sides and, in a sense, had to play referee to make sure neither side was getting out of hand. These people faced a very different kind of marginalization than those who supported one end or the other faced, and that is that they were told that by voting third party they were automatically voting for whoever the person grilling them about was opposed to being elected. This disrupts the democratic process and goes against the secret ballot that we use to cast our votes. So many people can remember a time in our country that you didn’t ask who someone was voting for unless they offered that info. It used to be out of respect for the other person’s privacy, but that was lost in this election. Perhaps the generation that has become old enough to vote since the last election doesn’t understand that we are supposed to respect other people’s votes and not make it personal when someone differs in opinion from you.

Another possibility is that social media has completely changed the whole process of elections. Social media puts the whole world is in your hands and you can’t open Facebook or Twitter without seeing a headline about politics. People share those headlines, publicize their views, and make it very obvious who they supports or the ideology they favor. With a click of a button, someone’s entire ideological profile and where they align politically are all there. Within the last year during the primaries and during the election itself, everyone’s social media was flooded with anti-Trump and anti-Hillary articles, videos, pictures, and memes. This changes the whole process in some good ways, too, because with that same click of a button you can find political socialization quizzes that help individuals find where they sit on the political spectrum based on how they answer questions about certain issues. Throughout the election cycle there were countless banners across social media not only urging people to go and register to vote, but also to go vote as the election itself approached, they also linked a site to find where to register and where their polling place was. This is huge because it helps first-time voters register and to know where their polling place is located – information they might not know if they hadn’t voted before.

This election took a toll on everyone because of the war of words between the candidates and how it tore people apart and turned people against each other. This election was different than others because of this divisiveness and because of how social media has changed how elections are done because of the wide scope that social media covers and what social media is able to do in terms of getting people out to vote.

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