Does Social Media Enhance or Deteriorate the Political Process?

The impact of social media on the political process has grown in recent years. Social media users have a direct link to candidates which encourages transparency and increases civic engagement. Although most people are familiar with the phrase 'political process' few thoroughly comprehend the different aspects of how it all works.  For instance, the U.S. Constitution allows each state to determine how to run elections. It may also surprise you to know that each county within the states incorporates a different type of balloting system. Additionally, states like Oregon no longer have precincts. State officials decided to abandon the prior system for mail-in balloting because over 80 percent of registered voters participated in the 2000 presidential election.Nevertheless, the process is defined as the formulation and administration of public policy by an interaction between political leadership and public opinion. Regardless of political affiliation, everyone benefits from the process. Until recently, the only access anyone had to their congressional representative was through email, a switchboard operator, or snail mail. The Internet and social media have made a tremendous impact regarding real-time access. The up-to-date and relevant politicians regularly use social media to engage with their constituents and promote their respective agendas. However, not everyone agrees to the use of social media by politicians: some argue that social media has an adverse impact on not only public policies but election results as well.Nicholas Carr said, "Our political discourse is shrinking to fit our smartphone screens." The criticism is in response to a photo and comments former President Obama posted on Instagram during a trip to Alaska to promote his climate agenda in 2015. Obama initially set the social media space to connect with the public during the 2008 Facebook election. However, his actions were surpassed by the candidates running to replace him in the White House in 2016.

Social media practices of 2016 presidential candidates

  • Ted Cruz used Periscope to live-stream his public appearances.

  • Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton used Twitter to spar over the impact of student loan debt.

  • Bernie Sanders was dubbed a 'king of social media' by the New York Times

  • Donald Trump used Twitter as his personal connection to the world while tweeting inflammatory bulletins at a moments' notice.

The tweets authored by President Trump, during the campaign, caused Google to optimize him for their news algorithm, which has never been done before. Trump's provocative statements, comments, and responses to critics and supporters made headlines on many occasions, demonstrating his ability to change the dynamics of the political races. Thus perhaps offering the best argument for why it would be incorrect to determine the political process is negatively impacted by social media. Political Strategist Mary Anna Mancuso of Political Hype said, "Politicians using social media is a way to connect with constituents as well as show a more personal side of how they are. It is also a great tool for voter outreach during the election cycle as well as giving voters a place to visit to learn more about them and their platform."There are several reasons why the use of social media by politicians is beneficial to the public, however, from their perspective, there are at least three primary reasons for politicians to use social media: the speed at which their message can be broadcasted and shared; the ease of use and simple accessibility; in addition to the versatility of the platforms. Not to mention, the ability to tap into real-time data to conduct their campaigns and make adjustments accordingly.Social media enhances the political process by offering an unfiltered platform accessible by anyone with an Internet connection. Politicians who choose to engage supporters through social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are viewed as informed, transparent and sincere about representing their constituents to the best of their ability