Politics context collapsed its way into the social networking scene, performance perseveres

Obama had plenty of reasons to win presidency for a second term. He is friends with Beyoncé and Jay-Z, thinks he’s capable of doing the Gangnam Style dance, and his face is excellent for meme making. All of these things are a reflection of a much bigger factor in this election overall- the use of social media to campaign and amongst voters. This article by Lorraine Devon Wilke discusses how much attention social media paid to the 2012 election, and posits…

During this election–which garnered more attention online than any in recent memory–social media not only became the tool with which we expressed our opinions and shared our feelings about all things political, but it literally changed the way elections are conducted.

The point here is far deeper than the existence of social technologies or algorithms used to target potential voters. It is one more related to Hong Liu’s discussion on taste performance, as we realize people are performing their identities online as they may or may not be in line with their physical world expressions. Tweets by Big Bird were clearly theatrical, Facebook statuses and Tweets may have been carefully constructed by users to make differentiation statements within their own networks, which could also be a consequence of truly authentic performance. I’m sure we all have that one friend who tried their hardest to evoke prestige by posting and reposting non-stop facts and coverage on the election and otherwise posts what they are eating and why their day sucked as opposed to anything related to politics. But Wilke’s point is regardless of performance, SNSs have become a communal space to engage in conversations that matter on terrifically significant levels. Who would ever think that our government and its policies would have a space for discourse in the social networking sphere? It’s a space, though, that is not necessarily bound by context- which can have great and awful effects #atthesamedamntime.

Wilke closes the article in saying “When a fifty-something President and First Lady can garner more social media attention than a teen idol with dreamy hair, it’s clear we’re at the dawn of a new, and likely to be tweeted, day,” referring to, of course, Justin Bieber.

Also, this post will seem ridiculous in the 2040 election…digital natives.


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