Every four years the familiar curtain is drawn and the debate begins in earnest around the latest presidential race. The only difference is, as technology continues to advance and we have a lot more access to the latest developments and affairs via the devices in our pockets, everyone suddenly seems to be a lot more aware of what is going on, who is against who and what they feel the outcome is likely to be.
Back when Barack Obama was heralded as president in 2008, a whole eight years ago, the Internet was awash with these things known as memes, as Obama’s face became part of popular culture, and American politics was thrust into the sphere of the Internet, leading to a whole new selection of discussions that were never really otherwise considered.
Social media brings forth an interesting sea change to the way politics used to be talked about – almost exclusively, coverage was brought by media outlets that may well already have harbored intentions and agendas. With that aspect in focus, it became difficult for many citizens to feel as if the entire spectrum of debate was being covered.
Right now, though, in 2016, Twitter and other social media platforms give many ordinary folk a chance to have a say on what is happening, and even talk to some of the candidates who may be vying for their votes in order to gain power. This means that powerful candidates are condensing their political messages into a mere 140 characters, or even a 10-second video footage you may receive on Snapchat, as they aim to increase their level of coverage this election.
With so many votes up for grabs from a whole host of people who no longer subscribe to more traditional methods of communication such as newspapers and television, hopeful candidates are reaching out to the masses via social media in the hope of finding new ways to get their message across.
Certainly, the presidential hopefuls who can appear cool and in with the crowd on social media will get a popularity boost if they can engage effectively, and the votes are there to be won. Posts on social media platforms are also much more likely to be widely shared than a clipping from a newspaper or an editorial piece, giving a further increase of reach. Since it is considered that millennials and those of similar generations are less likely to vote, finding ways to get the message across for these candidates could be critical to the outcome of their campaign.
Of course, there is no point pretending that the Internet is a safe haven for stupidity, and indeed it is rather the opposite. Making mistakes via Internet media can prove costly, as such errors are repeatedly lampooned and shared worldwide. Politicians have had their fair share of fun made at their expense across all platforms of media publication, and in recent times it has become common to start talking points about the faults of these candidates in a humorous way to attract more viewers.
Memes may have entered the political mainstream back in 2008, but they have evolved into a much more potentially damaging beast. People can remember the jokes about someone, and the silly things they might have said, as much as what they actually did do. Trump memes are pretty ubiquitous around the net currently, so here is a collection of the best from around the web for you to get an idea of how such platforms can make or break a presidential candidacy.
There is a question posed as to how much politicians are aware of this kind of mocking atmosphere. It may even be possible that they feel it enhances their stature simply by being in the limelight, and being talked about is certainly not something that most candidates are likely to complain about. Whether most sites engaging with memes and general humor to cover these kinds of topics is a deliberate attempt to stoke interest or to make a genuine point may be debatable, but there can be no doubting that the level of engagement seems at its highest point right now.
This political race may only just be about to begin in many terms, but how the primaries have unfolded already shows what kind of new political sphere we now operate in. As Internet connectivity grows, there are fewer hiding places for mistakes and ill-guided judgments. Whatever the outcome, at least it will be entertaining.