The world has been experiencing change in the forms of communication, after the invention and spread of internet across the globe. Media industry has been experiencing rapid evolution in the last three decades, and still continues to evolve in new, sometimes unexpected manner. The new media have extensive-ranging effects for political practices. New media have radically changed manners of communication in politics, and ways of operation in government institutions. It has also redefined the journalists’ role and system of the political media. Today, people depend on new forms of media to communicate, in all sectors of operation, including politics. One of the new forms of media that are highly employed in modern communication is social media. Social media is being extensively used in today’s world to facilitate exchange, dissemination, and production of political content within networks, and on platforms which accommodate collaboration and interaction. This has brought about great change on the use of traditional media, which used to play the primary role of disseminating political information in the past (Owen, 2018). This paper focuses on determining whether the traditional media has turned to be less significant in politics, with the rise of social media. Answering this question is important in demonstrating how the change of technology has affected political communication. The article will assess the extent to which social media favourable communication atmosphere to political agents compared to traditional media, and aspects of social media that makes it more preferable than the traditional media in political communication.
Social media is regarded as a group of internet-founded applications, which is built on the web 2.0 technological and ideological foundation that permits the exchange and creation of user generated information. Social media have in the past few years demonstrated a rapid user count growth to over 800 million people in facebook and over 200 million users in Twitter, based on 2012 research. This social media applications mainstream adoption has altered the information diffusion physics. The major obstacle for an individual who required some information to spread via a community was the technical infrastructure cost needed to reach a huge number of people. This bottleneck has been extensively eliminated, with the current widespread internet access. In this regard, personal publishing modalities that include weblogs, micro-blogging and social network sites have turn to be more predominant. The process through which people coordinate, organize and locate groups of persons with similar interest, the nature and number of available news and information sources, and the aptitude to share and solicit ideas and opinions across different topics, have all experienced drastic change with social media rise (Stieglitz & Dang-Xuan, 2012). The Social media have recently been said to have an effect on the communication and public discourse in the society. Specially, social media are used increasingly in political context. Social media site such as the facebook and microblogging services such as Twitter, were more recently believed to contain the ability for augmenting political participation. Although twitter is a perfect platform for spread of both political and general opinion, publically by users via their networks, political institutions which include political foundations, political parties and politicians, have also started using facebook groups or pages with intention of getting into direct dialogs with the public, and promoting more political discussions (Stieglitz & Dang-Xuan, 2012).
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Social network platforms are a crucial technique for gathering news and information from traditional news media organizations, friends, or families. According to Booulianne (2015), about 50% facebook users track traditional sources of news through facebook, though more significantly, 78% users in facebook report being incidentally exposed to news via social media ties. This means that social media does not replace journalism, but the means in which journalism ensure that information reach the public. Social networking has made news sharing process among members of a network, easier. Today, a user just need to click on ‘like’ or ‘retweet’, then all members connected to the one’s social network will get the news story access. According to Booulianne (2015), social network platforms can enhance the news sharing from those that are well-informed, to those who are less informed via incidental learning. The research demonstrates that 45% of 15- to 25- year olds youths reported obtaining their news from friends and families via Twitter or Facebook, at least once per week. Thus, social networking platforms might be specifically significant for informing young population (Bialik & Matsa, 2017). Social media has also introduced unprofessional form of journalism, where member of the public can capture interesting incidents in their vicinity, post on social media in form of pictures or videos and attract audience. Generally, traditional way of disseminating news is losing or has lost popularity. Although their news content is still treasured, majority prefer following their news briefing in twitter or facebook for more accurate news, rather than waiting for news time as it used to be the case in the past. This includes political news.
Social media is also said to play a great role in promoting political participation. Social media has been thought to enhance various kinds of political engagement, although there is no enough research evidence to support this. In a husk, for social media to create an effect on public participation, contingencies chain needs to be realized. Citizens need to expose themselves, either incidentally or intentionally to political information they consider to be relevant. Incidental political information is very frequent in social media. There is a high likelihood of coming across political information, even when one does seek it, especially in situation where there are burning political issues in the country. According to Knoll, Matthes and Heiss (2018), uninterested individuals have constant encounter with unintentional or incidental exposure to political information, since such content are frequently pushed to them by their relatives, friends or other acquaintances and hence, it is hard to ignore. This gives social media an upper hand in promoting politics (Young, n.d.). There are also political ‘memes’ that are easily shared and spread through social media. These memes initiate individual interest to follow on the political stories that inspired them.
The main success of social media in promoting political affair is due to its extensive use by people of all age groups, particularly the youths. The research has clearly noted low level of youths’ participation in politics, especially during the times when traditional media dominated the field (Young, n.d.). The main appealing aspect of social and digital media is that sharing and capturing information and news is easy and cheap. This enables ordinary individuals to share information with extensive audiences from anywhere. The extensive use of digital technology especially among the youths makes it easy for them to access political information through social media. This means, that social media can be used to develop a political platform where every person can be reached. The interactive nature of social media also makes it easy for the population to express their dissatisfactions, frustrations, dislike or likes based on the topic or leader in questions. This encourages more people to participate either actively or inactively by reading opinions of others or airing own contribution (n.a, 2018).
The internet and its facilitated devices make information easily accessible and instant, enhancing new kinds of political and civic action among youths. According to Baumgartner and Morris (2010), the cognitive and personal connections of young people can be promoted through digital communication, which is a social relations norm among youth. Since youth utilize digital technology to enhance their social relationship, they might also employ it for civic and political engagement. In Baumgartner and Morris (2010) views, young adults aged between 17 and 31 associate being politically engaged with finding information, having political knowledge, knowing major candidates views, and being guided by information while voting. Youths have a preference for participatory social media, which support personal expression, permit them to organize political or social action with peers, and permit them to make contribution to digital knowledge body. In Baumgartner and Morris (2010) views, youth, particularly users of social network seem more probable to take part in online politics. The research has also established that civic engagement is related to extensive use of facebook, while political participation is related to joining facebook groups. Moreover, offline political participation is related to online political participation. Although active political participations such as signing online petition are not popular, online participation has in the past initiating strong changes offline, in different parts of the world (Baumgartner & Morris, 2010). This analysis demonstrates that social media plays a great role in attracting youths into politics, and achieving great political results than traditional media has ever imagined.
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Different from the traditional media, online media can be used to initiate political change and to propagate political agenda. Unlike traditional media which is none-interactive, social media can easily be used to fuel a revolution spirit in a population, following unpleasant political occurrence. A good instance is in 2011, where new media was used in Philippine to organize demonstration against congress stand to protect a corrupt president that was supposed to be impeached. This happened only two hours after the announcement. Members of the public were able to share the message using short text messages that requested them to come out and meet on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue. Majority of the message receivers passed the message on to their network, and within no time, most people living around the selected venue were in a meeting. The message was passed to over seven million people in the country, and within two days, there was a big crowed, big enough to paralyze the city operations (Shirky, 2011). These kinds of demonstrations have been quite common in the 21st century, following the expansion of internet use and extensive spread of hand held digital technology. They include a successful demonstration in Spain in 2004 and Arabs Green movement uprising that started in Iran in 2009 June influencing a number of Arabic countries into revolution and ending in Egypt. All these demonstrations were propagated using short messages, which were shared among individuals network, reaching millions of people (Karlsen & Enjolras, 2016). Such kinds of political protest cannot be organized by use of traditional media, especially due to lack of interaction.
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Social media has also been extensively used to promote political campaigns, and to communicate political manifestos and ideologies in different parts of the world, especially in the US presidential election. The Obama campaign team in 2008 revolutionized the social media use in an election which they were sure they could have lost with the use of the traditional media. The campaign utilized features of advanced digital media which capitalized on community building, collaboration and networking ability of social media to develop a political movement. The campaign team ensured that they were active on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook among many other social media platforms that focused on specific constituencies, for instance Glee, AsiaAve and BlackPlanet. Social media was utilized to collect data on consumers and people’s political preferences, and built voter profiles to follow unique groups that include young professional voters, by use of customized messages (Kumar & Natarajan, 2016). The tradition of using social media during campaigns has been carried forward in the other two presidential campaigns in the country. American president is also using social media widely to report on major day engagements, to comment on burning political issues and the country’s foreign affairs among other things. In conclusion, traditional media has been greatly faced out in normal living and political world, with social media taking over. However, traditional media is still being highly respected for provision of accurate news or information, without ‘Fake news’. However, to remain viable, most of the traditional media is considering using social media platform to share their news. This makes it easy for the public to still depend on them for breaking news information, since they are likely to display verified news than any other group. This move by traditional media to integrate modern platform is a clear indication that traditional media has become less important with rise of social media, especially in news dissemination and in creating interactive political platform. However, traditional media inability to create an interactive communication platform has made it lose its popularity and preference in the political world. Social media seems to attract a larger crowd creating a better political ground for any politician. They also permit real time interaction give people a chance to access their leaders and information in a better way than before. It also provides people a better chance to air their opinion among other things. All these good features of social media have made it superior over traditional media in the modern world.