The 2020 Presidential Election and the Role of Digital Media

AOC playing twitch

Digital Media is described as anything that can be converted into binary and presented on a digital device. Through the last decade, the types of digital media available have exploded, couple that with mobile phone technology developing at an incredible rate, digital media has quickly become something that we all rely on in one way or another. Perhaps too much. Whilst we all know the ways social media have helped to divide society, confuse the truth and spread hate, what we might be less familiar with is how these platforms are being used to fight back. Whilst I could write pages about how Donald uses Twitter, how trolls infest facebook and how misinformation spreads through all types of social media, I’m going to focus my energy on the positive, as I feel that often gets overlooked. The resistance doesn’t find itself a popular topic, but social media, and the digital media that accompanies it by default, are the new battleground for freedom. Freedom for the truth. Freedom for expression. Freedom for thought and democracy.

Twitter is a great platform for spreading and sharing news. It hinges on the concept of the hashtag, something ,that admitedly, I mocked when I first heard of it. There’s no doubt though that twitter has become one of the most powerful social media platforms to date. It’s ease of use, character limits and trending sections have all proven to be popular with its user base, which stands at 145 million per day. To put that into context, thats 2 and half times the population of england. With this insane reach and lack of any kind of groups, information on twitter can be viewed and spread by the masses. Hashtags are the way to do it. Hashtags can be used to spread ideas, information about events and hot news topics, always relevant and always fast moving. These hashtags have been used for both good and evil, but the K-pop community have used the hashtag as a weapon to distrupt the right and confuse their community. The example I want to use comes from June, the time of year where the BLM protests started to gain traction in the western world. Most of us, united behind this cause saw it as an opporunity for real change, for unity and as a glimmer of hope that shone brighter when looked at in the context of the covid lockdown. Sadly though, there are always people on the wrong side of history and the hashtag “#whitelivesmatter” started to pick up traction. This wasn’t the K-pops communities first rodeo however, and they quickly drowned out the white supremists by hijacking their hashtag. Videos of K-pop artists flooded onto twitter, coupled with anti racist messages and links to charities supporting the BLM cause. Quickly, the white supremisists figured that fighting K-pop was a futile effort and they all went to sulk in their mums basement. K-pop had show once again, that through people coming together, we can drown hate out. This form of resistance is fun, harmless and easy to implement. Maybe we should all give K-pop a chance?

The next platform I want to talk about, a relatively new kid on the block that comes with all kinds of security issues, TicToc. TicTocs is marketed towards a younger audience, allowing them to make fun music videos, film themselves pranking other people and lip-syncing songs. Many western countries are suspicious about TicToc, in part, because it is owned by a Chinese firm. China’s communist government can ask for all data from any company to be handed over to them at any time, and western states see TicToc as an agent of this malicious, powerful government. They fear that by building up profiles of the people that use it, from analysing their viewing data, they will be able to influence future generations. This is scary considering how widely TicToc is used across the globe, it has 3.7 million daily users in the UK alone. With sophisticated AI coupled with mass data, it’s easy to see why countries are suspicious. Leaving that to one side for the moment, TicToc has also been in headlines for disrupting political rallies; namely, Donald Trumps Tulsa rally. As soon as an official Twitter account (@TeamTrump) encouraged people to use their phones to get free tickets for the rally, a fire was lit. The blaze started on Twitter and quickly spread to TicToc. Tictocs mostly younger demographic saw this as an opportunity for their voice to be heard, not through voting, but through disrupting one of the presidents first rallies of the season. His campaign manager at the time announced that over 1 million people had tried to get a ticket, apparently bragging about the popularity of the event. When only 6,200 people showed, he was quickly shown the door. This gives us hope for future generations, it shows they understand the power of social media and are savvy enough to wield the power of it. It tells us that the younger generation (if I’m allowed to generalise) know bad when they see bad. Once again, the k-pop community deserve a shout out here too, as they also claimed to have reserved tens of thousands of tickets for that rally.

Trump looking defeated
PATRICK SEMANSKY / AP

Marmite, you either love it or hate it, as the slogan goes. The same could be said for liberal democrat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She is a force to be reckoned with. She’s truly the face of the next generation of politicians, the old, white men who sit in the powerhouse that runs America are already starting to look like relics of a bygone age and AOC is there to hurry them out the door. Her progressive policies have made her very popular amongst younger voters who see the old ways failing in every way, favouring the rich at the expense of everybody else, but they’ve also made her very unpopular with republicans and more traditional democrats. One thing nobody can criticise is the way she engages with voters. Twitch is the streaming platform of choice for gamers, and although she’s not the first politician to use this platform to spread her message to the masses (that title goes to Bernie Sanders), she’s definitely the most successful, she ranks in the top 20 watched most streams of all time, across all platforms. That’s pretty impressive for the ladies debut stream. Her message reached hundreds of thousands of potential voters, what was her message? Vote. Simply to vote. The most important act in any democracy. The most amazing thing was how last minute this was all put together. Using Twitter, she sent out a tweet asking if anybody wanted to play were her and within minutes, the community responded.

Apparently, she’s pretty good too. This is a brilliant example of how to reach a mass audience in the new age. With traditional television quickly becoming a thing of the past, politicians need to find new ways to reach their audience, and AOC has proven to be very adept at that.

The first mass digital media was the radio, followed by television and now the internet means that the types of digital media are only limited by our imagination. Whether using it for good or bad, there’s no denying the power and reach it has. We all carry a phone around with us every day and although the Social media giants of the day have a duty to protect us from the lies, it is up to us to think critically and choose our feeds carefully. Politics is changing and the way the parties use digital media changes with it. There will always be the ones that seek to manipulate our thoughts, that seek to manipulate and make you believe that it’s all “that” persons fault. But as long as we don’t give up the fight for freedom, for justice and for truth, hope remains.

bibliography
https://www.oberlo.com/blog/twitter-statistics
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-52922035
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/21/style/tiktok-trump-rally-tulsa.html
https://www.socialfilms.co.uk/blog/tiktok-uk-statistics

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