Social Media and Politics

Are they mutually beneficial?

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The politics in the UK is as intricate as most other countries. The Conservative Party have been in power for over a decade now, and have seen off the main opposition, the Labour Party, in four elections during this time. Alongside this period, social media platforms have grown and thrived. Politics has found its place on social media, and during the run up to an election and the days following, it is one of the main topics.

Despite the often heavy election defeats, Labour are shown to be supported well on social media, or at least there is always a lot more anti-Conservative sentiment. ‘That’s what you get for voting Tory’ and ‘I could do a lot of things but I couldn’t vote Tory’ are seen plenty on social media, but despite this the number of people voting for the Conservatives has continued to increase.

As of 2017, roughly 40 million people in the UK were on social media. In that year, Theresa May’s Conservative Party formed a minority government with the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. It was an election which, despite the defeat, gave a lot of confidence to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. The attitude on social media reflected this, with optimism across the platforms.

As it turned out, the Labour Party couldn’t build on this, and suffered its heaviest defeat in decades. The social media platforms gave an attitude of ‘how can the Tories have won by such a landslide?’ the answer; they got a lot more votes than many people in the UK expected.

If we judged what the dominant political party is in the UK from social media alone, it wouldn’t necessarily show that Labour are popular but more so that the Conservatives are unpopular. If this attitude is regularly repeated across a majority of the 40 million+ on social media then you would think that the Conservatives might get a few less votes. As it was, people came out in their droves to vote for Boris Johnson’s party last December.

One possible question to this query is that do people who vote for parties other than the Conservatives, and therefore want to vote for change in government, have a more obvious presence on social media? The idea that in order to make a change you need to stand out from the crowd is a valid one which originates back to the very beginning of democracy.

Social media is both helpful and a hindrance when it comes to the political world. It gives a platform to all kinds of attitudes and opinions, and it highlights why the Conservatives won by a landslide. Labour lost many voters due to a poor campaign and its weak stance on Brexit, amongst many other things.

This culminated in the heavy defeat, within which some seats turned Conservative for the first time ever as the traditional ‘red wall’ crumbled.

Many official posts from both of the UK’s largest parties are riddled with criticisms in the comments section, showing that the platform of social media has its pros and cons for these two parties in a similar way to the rest of us; no one is safe from a critique.

On review, the worlds of politics and social media are both to some extent juxtaposed to each other. Many people will use social media to perhaps take a break from the everyday struggles of seeing the news and absorbing the hard hitting news; at this point in time there is little on the news to inspire much happiness.

They would therefore not take to their Facebook or Twitter page to check up and give opinions on politics. If someone wants to avoid politics filling their timeline, it is within their power to do so. However, actively avoiding politics on a permanent basis is not something to be recommended; no matter how ‘boring’ it might be considered.

Social media has given politicians the power to connect to their constituents and to keep them updated on the latest goings on in their area. This has its benefits, but whether one of these is the ability for anyone to give their opinion is one which remains to be seen.

There is an obvious agenda with the use of politics on social media. During an election campaign it can get pretty gritty, but it is often the best way for political parties to reach out to people. If someone gets their news online, then it makes sense to try and get their vote in the same place.

Social media and politics will continue to advance hand in hand. In many ways, they are mutually exclusive; one would not thrive without the other. in the years leading up to the next General Election, the mudslinging contest which is political social media will no doubt shift up the gears once more.

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