Saturday, 2 April 2016

World View: Donald Trump uses social media to toxic effect

The US election has become the social media election: in its agenda, in the focus and tone of debates, in new forms of organisation and in the form of a frontrunner who epitomises it, social media with legs Donald Trump.

Two-thirds of adults and 90 per cent of young adults use social networking sites, predominantly Facebook. A third of young adults will post views on political issues on social media, and the Pew Research Centre has found that about a third of 18- to 29-year-olds name a social networking site as their most helpful source for learning about the election.

Borrell Associates estimates politicians will allocate more than 9 per cent of their media budgets to digital and social media in this election cycle, a staggering $1 billion (€880 million).

Crucially, it changes the nature of the dialogue between politicians and many voters by making redundant the mediation role of the press and TV. Communication is two-way, allowing for a sounding board effect and a sense of ownership of the campaign, while the message is also uncontaminated by translation or explanation by intermediaries. It is largely unquestioned or subject to fact-checking and does not have to sit beside rival narratives to face easy direct comparison. The control of the message by political campaigns is a joy.


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