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Does Twitter play too much of a role in the presidential election?

It is an election year, which means that our televisions are clogged with talk of nominees, super-delegates, and debates. Social media has become one of the largest components to a successful election in 2016, so much so that Hillary Clinton had to hire more staff to increase her presence within the digital media world. But is it possible that this election is focusing too heavily on reaching the public via social media? When Barack Obama first ran for President in 2008, utilizing social media as a candidate was not totally unheard of, but absolutely not being used as it is now.

“Technologies like Twitter and Snapchat let candidates speak directly to voters, she said, opening new opportunities for “outsider” candidates like Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who would previously been reliant on the party and traditional media to get their message out.” (Fortune)

Conversations on Twitter and Facebook were primarily about a candidate, not with one. Sometimes I ask myself, would Bernie Sanders had made it as far as he has in 2016, without the help of “millennials” and their fight towards a more progressive nation? Would Donald Trump’s campaign have been this much of a success without the “bigots” that troll around on the Internet looking for a fight? It’s hard to say, because as a society we are so engrained with social media usage that it is hard to say what it would be like without it. But maybe, it’s worth a shot. Let’s break it down.

A voter as a consumer:

Marketing agencies all over the world view social media as a way to connect with a consumer and the same thing can be said for all the candidates of the 2016 Presidential Election. Employees of each campaign are more or less using consumer strategy to “buy” our vote and it’s working. New media has become so powerful that the tactics of buying power have led us to understand a candidate and their beliefs and plans in a different way. No longer are we reliant on simple commercials and a couple debates, we are flooded with information. Twitter can be seen as a way to connect with a candidate just as you’d connect with a friend, it shows and helps maintain the authenticity behind a candidate. In the midst of a social media revolution, the social media departments behind a candidate are studying memes and how to fit a response into 140 characters. Next thing you know, Ben Carson will be tweeting out a coupon code for surgical procedures in order to secure votes.

Real-time response as a mulligan:


With the amount of controversy that has been connected to each and every single debate, regardless of the party, Twitter is the go-to source to sort of give yourself a mulligan. We’ve seen countless times how Donald Trump will go out of his way to say something outlandish, even if you agree with him, his delivery can be abrasive. Therefore, after the entire Internet has exploded with memes, support, or trash talk, we can find the Donald posting something on Twitter to justify his statement. The same is true for Hillary Clinton. When ‘misspeaking’ about her views on the Reagans and their controversy with AIDS, Clinton reached out to Twitter to ‘apologize’ for her error and attempt to create a mulligan with her voters.

While Twitter may lead us to believe that a candidate is more authentic, that does not mean they are genuine. Social media has bloated our sense what is “real” and that is not necessarily a good thing. The amount of theatrics that have surrounded this election have in some cases clouded our minds and have allowed the ‘consumer’ to drift away from the real issues. Sure, Twitter has allowed us to do many great things in life, personal of professional, but I don’t believe that Twitter should influence how we pick a President.

Madeline McDowell @madelineannm

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University