President Obama knows how to use 140 characters
Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 23:09
If the presidential election was won by Facebook “likes” and Twitter and Tumblr followers, President Barack Obama would be preparing his thanks to the American people for reelecting him already.
However, likes on statuses and retweets aren’t the only keys to an election. If they were, we’d be electing the members of One Direction or Lady Gaga as our presidents and not Obama or Mitt Romney.
This doesn’t mean that social media throughout the election should be ignored. Just last week Obama took full advantage of the internet when he hosted a Reddit question and answer session. Reddit is considered “the front page of the Internet” and has news stories from across the web. He answered questions ranging from who his favorite basketball player is (Michael Jordan, in case you were wondering) to what he thought about the influence of corrupt money in politics to when the White House official beer recipe will be released.
Social media is an important key to elections; it allows voters to glimpse into politics in a way that many people can understand - 140 characters or less. It makes the candidates’ ideas concise and more visual, but since the pages are run by the campaigns, the information may be skewed to the candidate the page is for.
Showing not only his presidential side, Obama showed the part that Romney has yet to convey: Obama has shown himself. Obama has masterfully taken social media to a place where it should stay throughout elections, a glimpse into who he is as a person. Obama has taken social platforms and used them to his advantage, giving voters a chance to look at his personal life as well as his politics.
If you think about it, your Facebook is what you think defines you to your friends. You post statuses about your life and like pages that reflect your interests. It is a virtual window to your life. President Obama opened the curtains to his window and let us peek inside, but also balances out the personal with the political. Romney doesn’t. It’s a window into his politics, not to the life he leads outside campaigning.
Romney has just over six million Facebook fans, while Barack Obama has 28 million. Romney also only has a little over one million Twitter followers to Obama’s 19 million. From those statistics, many might say that Barack Obama has the election in the bag, but the Democrats’ and Republicans’ demographics are completely different and if looked at, make Romney’s low numbers make sense.
Republicans are known for being older, while Democrats are known for their interaction with youth. How many grandparents do you know on Twitter? I know grandparents don’t account for the 18 million fewer Twitter followers, but it does help to put things into perspective. The race may not be as much of a landslide as social media may indicate.
Presidential campaigns have also started campaign Tumblr pages, so the little “hipster” heaven you once held near and dear to your heart is yet another campaign ground. Tumblr doesn’t list followers for accounts, but the amount of reblogged and liked posts for Obama greatly outnumbers those for Romney.
Once again, this is because of the way the Tumblr page is set up. Obama makes his personal page allow followers to submit posts and comment on his own. One post on the Barack Obama Tumblr page is of someone’s hedgehog (named Joe Biden, of course) “holding” a “Hedgehogs for Obama” sign. Obama not only understands the Tumblr audience, but makes it seem more personal and more fun than his opposition’s Tumblr page. Romney’s page is so full of campaign videos that you lose the element of connection.
All in all, social media is a tool that should be implemented throughout the election, but it should not be the main focus when voting for a candidate. It isn’t like voting for the homecoming queen by gaging how many others will base on likes on her photos and retweets of her “vote 4 me!” tweets. Actually explore the candidates’ views on different subjects, watch their debates and read a newspaper. Figure out who you want to vote for based on his views, not on how many Facebook friends he has.
Addie Smith is a sophomore journalism and political science major and can be reached at email@example.com.