March 2016

Social media: two sides of a coin

Let’s get one thing straight. Even before your generic Twitter-like social media technology appeared on stage, politicians have been using pre-existing forms of such to play their number on the general public. The great Abraham Lincoln did it, and even the heroic martyr John F. Kennedy did his fair share. The question is, no matter its undoubtedly profitable gains, is social media necessarily a good idea when it comes to political processes? Not to mention the large impact of repercussions it may have on one’s reputation, as a minor mistake among many achievements is perceived with great controversy, the ethical and factual damage one may cause with such a tool is unimaginably horrendous.

First and foremost, social media with all its benefits, posessocial media as a double-edged sword to each and every candidate running in an election. Commonly known among political strategists, any statement, attack ad, processed through social media’s means in order to reach the public in a heartbeat is never a sure cause. Millions of citizens tuning in with their tablets and smartphones are very much responsive to the busy trend of social media commotion and to the discussions that overheat in minutes surrounding a 30-second video that a promoted a government advertisement or brought forth a message by a political campaign. With such high-leveled traffic on the highway of social media, facts, quotes, facial expressions, and whatever actions taken by a politician are subject to twisting and misinterpreting.

Some of you may remember the 1993 Jean Chrétien attack advertisement, also known as the “Face Ad”, right? (Fine, you youngsters may not remember it, you probably read about it in your grade 10 History class) Kim Campbell, the then Prime Minister and her Conservative Party did in fact claim to have released the ad on Jean Chrétien for the sole purpose of exposing him to Canadians as a politician unfit to rule the country, and nothing more. Your average citizen would agree with that, stating that yes, such a move is fair in the game of politics. The downside was that, the latter was diagnosed with a case of facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy) and with that side of his face being frozen and shown on the Conservative commercial with the voice saying: “Jean Chrétien, a Prime Minister?”, the almost immediate destruction of the Conservatives in the polls was consequently reflected. The Liberals won with a landslide of a majority government, and the Progressive Conservative Party even lost its official status as a party. Now, this is even before your standard Facebook and mass media culture fully fledged into the picture, so imagine the effect it would have in our contemporary days, where political opponents are working around the clock in order to misconstrue your very own statements minutes after you deliver them?

Social media is very fluent in tampering with anything with the help of Photoshop-like technology, anything ranging from photos to videos to audio recordings. Not to point any fingers, but political individuals and groups have and had a trend in the past few years of playing the pick-and-choose game, where a select portion of a politician’s speech or a minute comment made by a cabinet minister is then displayed for the world to see, posing that legislator to be nothing more or less than the miniature comment or gesture he or she committed to.

Furthermore, the issue of privacy and control of what gets leaked on the leader’s watch is an ever rising issue. Yes, democracy and freedom of the press is the core fundamental value of our system, but when talking about tactics, interest groups always have their way. A simple tweet by a reporter or a 10-second video leaked by a journalist hounding a politician and mentally cornering him is enough evidence to land the missile on target. Furthermore, the hounding of individuals on politicians’ social media profiles tends to put the latter in a bit of a limbo – either they decide to keep quiet to all negative commentary and let the attacks take their natural course, or they simply answer with what they feel is most safe, and handle the inevitable wave of shark-like critics.

Let’s get a little emotional – ethics. Individuals and governments at large now have the power of destroying reputations not only by misconstruing facts and picking and choosing what they like from what their target engages in, but also creating fictional stories out of thin air without the slightest worry of being reprimanded or questioned, due to flowered up words and beautifully placed presentation and charisma. Now, isn’t that so very much democratic. I would bring up the infamous case of Donald Trump, but you’ve already heard that tale by now.

Where are my manners – I apologize for beginning this article with a McGregor-style knockout on two of the greatest American presidents to have ever lived – Abraham Lincoln and John Fitzgerald Kennedy. That is to say, no one is safe form the dark-sided attacks of social media, but also from committing such hypocritical acts while fooling the general public, all in the goal of getting one’s way. If we have become unequivocally accustomed to making such unethical practices a part of our political processes, then what more do we have left to our pride which we call democracy and better yet, freedom?


Written by MWR writer Bilal Gomdah, edited by the MWR team


We live in a world where one tweet can have a substantial impact on a political candidate’s campaign. In this world, both politicians and voters can benefit enormously from using social media.

Politicians can post videos on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter for free, which is a more cost effective way for them to get their message to voters than paid television advertisements. They can also communicate more directly with voters by replying to tweets or commenting on posts. Most politicians already have social media accounts to either help their campaign or to update voters on bills and policies they had a hand in. Another reason why social media presence is or should be so important to politicians is that the majority of people between 18 and 64 years of age are on at least one social media platform. It would be ridiculous to ignore a medium that allows you to communicate for free with the people you will elect you.




Voters can also benefit from social media for several reasons. From letting users organize support or protest rallies quickly and effectively to giving them a platform to encourage others to vote, social media is an extremely valuable asset in political processes.

Furthermore, a candidate’s social media presence or the presence of his supporters is invaluable in getting the youth vote. According to research done by the Pew Internet Project on American voters for the 2012 presidential election, 30% of registered voters were encouraged to vote for either candidate on a social networking site (such as Facebook) or Twitter and 20% of registered voters encouraged others to vote for either candidate on one of these websites. Additionally, 38% of social media users “liked” or promoted material related to politics or social issues and 20% of social media users have used these tools to follow elected officials and candidates for office.

This proves that social media encourages political involvement and that anyone who can harness the power that these platforms allow has a distinct advantage. As one of the most important factors in political processes is voter participation, social media is therefore an invaluable asset in these processes.

Written by MWR writer Ila Ghoshal, edited by the MWR team

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