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How Social Media Has Impacted Politics: The 2016 Election and Beyond

We’ve all seen the day-to-day impact that social media has had on our lives over the last 10 to 20 years. But it’s also had an impact on the bigger picture stuff — it's worth noting, for example, the impact of Twitter on elections and TikTok on political ideologies.

Of course, this is something we can’t expect to cover in the space of one blog, but we thought we would do a little rundown of some of the ways the trajectory of politics has been forever changed by the online world.

Arguably the most significant impact social media has had on politics is the participation of young people in political discussions online. Social media has made everything more accessible — from news to awareness to politicians themselves. Suddenly, young people have a chance to become part of the conversation, and are much more likely to want to learn about social causes in bitesize social media posts than in extensive articles or books.

Politicians have never been closer to the general public as they are in the present age of social media. Few can forget the impact of Twitter on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign — in fact, Trump himself has said “I think I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have social media.” According to a study done by The Centre for Economic Policy Research, the overall volume of political Twitter content during the 2016 election increased tenfold from the 2012 election, and there was four times more Twitter content about Trump relative to Clinton. However, most of these Trump-related tweets tended to be from a left-wing perspective.

There are arguments from both democrats and republicans against the use of Twitter during election time — from the concern of censored freedom of speech to worries of mass-spreading misinformation.

As for Trump’s tweets themselves… well — whether it was the infamous “covfefe” incident or his countless accusations of “fake news” — many of his tweets will undoubtedly make their way into future history books.

Social media’s significance in the political sphere didn’t end with Trump, however. In fact, mere days ago, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak managed to stir up a controversy by tweeting this series of pictures, in which he used ALT text — a tool used to translate images for visually impaired users — to push his political agenda with the words “we’re growing the economy”.

At the end of the day, social media has made all aspects of our lives significantly faster, which is inevitably going to have a huge impact on politics — whether that’s due to news spreading quicker, speedier public campaign feedback or more rapid communication between politicians and the general population.

Have you noticed a shift in the world of politics with the rise of social media? Let’s start a chat over on Instagram @trufflesocial.

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