I had the opportunity of researching and presenting on the influence of the internet and social media on politics. I happened to come upon a website that outlines major political news courtesy of social media and what politicians have Tweeted, blogged or shared on Facebook. One of the politicians highlighted Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and a blooper he made on Twitter: Weiner "accidentally" posted a picture of a man's underwear-clad groin to Twitter and later denied that it was his own doing and reported his account had been hacked. Earlier this week the Senator admitted that he had been having online relationships with multiple women and that he had sent them all inappropriate pictures. I really think Weiner missed and opportunity to confess to his poor behavior and now who knows how the media will react. Will Weiner and this mishap be the President Clinton scandal of Twitter?
Seeing all the online news sites and blogs cluttered with posts about Weiner's unfortunate "Twithap" made me think about the influence social media really can have on a candidates supporters and more importantly voters. President Obama was truly the forerunner of integrating social media into politics and it has only taken off from his 2008 presidential campaign. Since 2008, more and more individuals are turning to social media outlets to voice their opinion on the issues that matter to them but to also learn about the candidates and their platforms.
Social media has changed the way that voters interact with the candidates but is that necessarily a good thing. Sure, anyone can do a search in google about a particular candidate and pages of results pop up with their twitter and facebook account(s) and blog posts (good and bad) about them, but how can we really be sure that all this information is correct? Oftentimes, how can we even unearth the original source of the blog and find the issue that lies at the bottom. We are presented with so many different opinions that sometimes the candidates are unable to tap into what brought them to social media in he first place: interacting personally with all their supporters.
Another interesting point of social media in politics is that it exposes an individual to a wider array of views than traditional campaigns could ever. All the ends of the political spectrum are represented through social media which gives voters the opportunity to hear all the stances and truly make an informed decision. No longer are we in a political age with just a Democratic, Republican Party and independent party. The spectrum is much broader and politics are becoming more complex.
Only time will tell the effects social media will have on the 2012 elections but one thing's certain: if there are more Representative Weiner's out there it certainly will be entertaining. Can anyone say "The Real House[wives] Representatives of DC!"