I do not believe anyone in the MPA program doubts how powerful social media can be with politics. Our current president may be the most galvanizing subject to ever land on a social media feed. Is that a good thing? One can certainly argue either side of that question. The number of Americans engaged, enraged, and debating policy topics on Facebook is astonishing.
Our news media platforms are able to post an article within moments after an event occurred. In turn, the Facebook-ing population can take a clickbait headline, not even read the article, and post an emotion-fueled opinion that satisfies their urge to vent. Often times, the event does not have any direct or significant impact to their daily lives, but regardless, emotions are spilled. Our society may be more informed than ever, but they are surface-level informed. Weeding out the opinions from facts, exaggerations from detailed content, and attention-grabbing headlines from true statements can often be difficult and time-consuming. From the Kavanaugh appointment and Trump’s daily remarks, to immigration and healthcare reform, the polarizing political conversations will only continue to shape our perspectives and future elections.
There are certainly positives to how open and abundant the news has become. Americans are engaged in a number of conversations online and they care. That’s the keyword – care. Regardless of whether or not they care for the right or wrong reason, an incredible number of Americans genuinely care about what is happening in DC and their own state’s government. The numerous platforms and forums have also shed a greater light on domestic social issues and our federal government’s diplomacy. The culture of this nation is evolving rapidly, nearly the same pace as our technological advances. Injustices cannot hide from the public in today’s social media era.
With the good comes the bad. The United States feels more divided now than at any point in the last few decades (or longer). While the emotions raging on Facebook may only represent a minority, and the extremists of that minority, they are still visible to millions of viewers. The term “fake news” is thrown around daily from both liberal and conservative news media outlets. Americans have a sharp decline in trust from what is perceived as news. According to a 2018 report by the Knight Foundation, “Most U.S. adults, including more than nine in 10 Republicans, say they personally have lost trust in the news media in recent years. At the same time, 69% of those who have lost trust say that trust can be restored.” If you cannot trust the news to stay current on significant events, who can you trust?
Where do we go from here? There is little doubt that inaccurate news and social media will play a significant role in upcoming elections. Should we amend what is available to the public on various social media platforms? If so, is it feasible without infringing on constitutional rights? Do we ride out this wave and hope our population performs its due diligence and finds facts in the garden of lies and exaggerations? One thing is certain: it is an incredible time for political and policy news.