Social Media is Good for Democracy

The social media age has completely dominated current day society. This time twenty years ago, information simply could not be accessed and spread in the instantaneous manner it is now. Social media has done great things for democracy: access to social media aids in obtaining educational information, increases voter activity, and it also promotes collectivity.

As websites like Twitter and Facebook have risen to popularity, they are also used to educate the world and allow for precluded voices to be heard. During the social media uprising, television channels, wildlife foundations, research centers, and many other organizations created social media accounts for advertisement and to educate their consumers. While also creating content that promotes their interests, some accounts post arbitrary pictures or videos of animals, plants, or scientific phenomena with a caption explaining what is happening in the photo, where the animal, plant, or experiment came from, and its place in the world. For example, an adult who does not travel or have time for television has the opportunity to see a video of an exotic creature and learn a bit about this animal while simply scrolling through videos on Facebook. According to the article “This Explains How Social Media Can Both Weaken – and Strengthen – Democracy”, “social media is a tool for giving voice to those excluded from access to mainstream media” (Tucker, et al). Individuals now have the opportunity to not only retrieve beneficial information from social media, but to also use social media as a way to repeat and share that same information. Before the rise of social media, if someone with little to no resources wanted to voice their perspective on information that has helped them become more enlightened, they’d have a hard time finding a suitable platform. Being able to find new information and spread that information is a vital part of maintaining an inclusive democracy.

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When considering this country’s political climate under the Trump administration, social media is an undeniable factor. The platforms provided by social networks have had unparalleled effects on the minds of young people in America. Barack Obama was one of the first politicians to utilize social media as a part of his campaign: however, social media was probably the number one platform being used in the 2016 presidential election. Politicians created hashtags, passively aggressively debated with each other through tweets, and documented their campaigns through networks such as Instagram. It was by far the most direct method of contacting young adults, who have a history of being apathetic towards political elections. It is common thought that “first-time voters’ social media use increased their campaign participation and also helped them to become more certain about their vote” (Ohme). As young people are coming of age, they are able to see what’s going on in the world for themselves. They are able to hear from real people about the issues going on in the world, rather than receive censored or biased information from news outlets. Social media also presents politics in an age appropriate manner through visuals and videos, which stimulates the mind instead of overwhelming it with foreign terms and dry tones.

Social media movements such as “#MeToo”, “#BlackLivesMatter”, and “#MarchForOurLives” had a great impact on interactions between people and promoted collectivity among Americans. When the “#MeToo” hashtag went viral, its followers stated that support would be shown to anyone who came forward with a story of sexual abuse. After that, countless men, women, and nonbinary people were coming forward, and they were indeed backed by sympathizers and fellow survivors. These movements have shown they are capable of bringing people together: there have been many marches and acts of solidarity that have resulted in a higher sense of community. These marches don’t just happen in one place: they usually happen simultaneously in multiple major U.S. cities with thousands in attendance. People are also able to build relations with one another after connecting over similar stories, beliefs, and values. Having the right to protest and gathering to do so is a monumental component of living in a democracy. It is democracy at its core. These hashtags have helped to preserve the truest most integral parts of living in the United States of America.

There are many that argue social media is bad for democracy. One major reason, is polarization. According to the article “Social (Net)Work: How Does Social Media Influence Democracy?”, “Polarization refers to the idea that, when someone is exposed to only information that supports their own beliefs, those beliefs tend to push more towards the extremes” (Grigonis). Another reason is the circulation of uncredible news that is usually believed at first sight. While polarization and false stories are something to confront in regard to social media, they are problems that can be easily solved. Lastly, social media gives positivity a platform, but it also gives negativity a platform. Hate groups, such as the “alt right”, have deployed social media to advertise messages that promote an agenda that excludes certain communities. When a person’s account has been polarized, this can be easily countered with the following of accounts with neutral beliefs. Being exposed to new information that is without bias can alter a person’s entire view of something. If a person sees an outlandish story while scrolling through social media, they can research its authenticity by asking others around them or checking the internet. Most websites offer a “block” option that can help eliminate any detestable content from one’s newsfeed.

Social media has and continues to do a lot of good for our country’s democracy. Without social media, democracy wouldn’t have flourished as it has today. If social media were to suddenly disappear, the world would retreat back to a time where information can be withheld by news stations, people feel isolated and alone, and young people would not pay much attention to who is in office. Luckily, this is not the case. People are able to easily access new educational information, connect with one another over similar values, and are encouraged to be politically active. It is important that society keeps utilizing social media for these reasons, so that the world is able to keep progressing in an upward direction.

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