Social media’s rising role in politics

Murissa Barrington

BIZ/TECH REPORTER

Raeanne Taylor and Kyonah St. Hill never paid much attention to the presidential election in the U.S. before this year. But with the increasing role of social media in politics, the first year Humber Spa Management students say it can no longer be ignored.

It doesn’t inspire them to get involved, however.

“I don’t care about that stuff,” said Taylor, who learned about the presidential debates on Twitter. “Since it’s in front of me I kind of have no choice but to think about it. I wouldn’t go out of my way to read about it though.”

St. Hill said she hasn’t watched television since moving out of her mom’s home and that if election coverage wasn’t online she wouldn’t have known about it.

Still, discussing politics on social media is becoming a new norm.

The second U.S. presidential debate on Sept. 26 produced 17 million tweets, making it the most tweeted event ever, according to Twitter.

Boyd Neil, a senior digital strategist and Social Media Professor at Humber College, said this change could encourage more youth engagement.

“I’m not one of these people who believes that slacktivism (support without involvement) as it’s sometimes called, is unimportant,” Neil said. “I think the very fact that people make these tiny acts of political participation means that if they need to take a bigger act of political participation, they will.”

Politicians understanding how social media reaches youth is something Neil says is important in the future of politics.

He said voters recognized the social web as a meeting place where they can exchange views and ideas in the 2008 U.S. election.

Humber Ignite’s Digital Media Coordinator Stephen Wong is taking notice and hopes to include more online technology in the next student election.

“Facebook Live is something that is pretty new,” he said. “We tested it out for one event so far this year, but I think that it’s something that I would definitely like to use a lot more during the upcoming elections.”

“The ability to live stream things, it’s a really big benefit to us,” Wong said.

Ignite Project Coordinator Vanesa Silaphet says social media has been helpful in allowing candidates to reach out to a wider audience.

“I think that if a candidate is running for president for example their best advantage is to use social networks, because it might be too time consuming to reach out and go to every campus …so I think using it to their advantage is a good idea,” said Silaphet.

Ignite saw its highest voter turnout of all time last year after using social media.

But Taylor and St. Hill don’t seem enthusiastic about the prospect of participating in their first election at Humber.

“If I hear about it, if its easy for me to get to, sure,” said Taylor, adding that if online voting was an option she would vote.

St. Hill remains unmoved.

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