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We are in a generation which is increasingly dominated by technology and online media has a significant impact on public's association with the world. Social media has been a fore-runner in propagation of awareness and ideologies. It has significant effect on entertaining public perception and obviously affect election outcomes. Media houses and even election candidates have turned to social media to reach masses. Now, the effect of social media on election outcomes can be observed by various issues as follows:
News organisations have been involved in social media to acquire markets, especially the young. Now, media has the general affinity of going for stories that drive viewership, and as a result candidates can be ignored if they do not gather the interest of the media. The perfect example of this being the huge coverage of Donald Trump owing to his affinity towards controversy, which generates more traffic.
We also find that media houses tend to attract partisan audiences, i.e., they tend to stick to certain ideologies which earns them loyal viewers. People seek news that does not fundamentally challenge their beliefs, based on a degree of association with such news which they expect and desire to see. Donald Trump and his good relations with Fox News can demonstrate such instances, where both of them complement each other and have a loyal following.
Media also does data journalism especially in times of elections. Now, Polls influence voter's perceptions, and media tends to cover these polls,where if a candidate performs well, he/she is subject to more coverage and more coverage reflects in improvement of the polls. Thus, there is also a self-perpetuating cycle involved in this scenario.
Filter bubbles and Echo Chambers:
Social networking service providers like Facebook and its subsidiaries have an advanced algorithm of filtering individual likes and dislikes and presenting it to them. This necessitates a homogenous feed which includes similar sort of news which is generally the kind of information an individual likes, shunning the other side of the story, generating a bias of information. This is known as echo chambers, because people have their own perception and it tunnels their vision with more dosage of that information.
Like for example, if we consider a patriot who is into posts involving the army, Facebook generates a feed which relates mostly to this patriotic beliefs and thus, candidates favouring such beliefs automatically get an edge over pacifier beliefs.
Pictures are more significant than words:
Research shows that most people tend to seek information through images rather than an article accruing to the quick delivery of information through pictographic representations. Images of political candidates play a huge role as they convey emotions, actions, and credibility which generates a degree of association among the public. Like, for instance, images of politicians engaged in social works bodes well with the public gaining their trust and thus winning votes.
Plus, there are roles played by the virality of an image or video because they don't present the whole context. This facilitates clouding of facts and can have a significant impact on the minds of the viewers, like the Jamia Milia library beatdown, where a CCTV footage of policemen beating a library full of students has had dual interpretations, where in one it shows police brutality where the other side justifies it on grounds of stopping stone-pelting activists. Coupled with perfect timing nearing elections, a viral image can influence the election results before it is even fact checked.
Candidate's personal interaction:
Election Candidates have moved to social media platforms to reach a bigger audience in recent times. Moving on from election rallies and town hall meetings, etc., social media enables to reach an younger crowd and on a personal level serves as free advertising, saving a lot of expenses which can be diversified in other sections. The candidates can use these platforms to increase a personal relativity with the audience, and more the association, more the favour. For example, politicians showing their daily lives where they do daily activities like normal population, bodes well for them as they generate a degree of relativity with the followers, and as humans we are prone to kin selection.
There are algorithms to tailor messages to specific audience. Even different platforms can be used. Like for example, in India, two subsidiaries of Facebook, attract different audience. Whats-App being more familiar among older generations, Instagram caters mostly the young, so content to be dispersed in different platforms can be altered accordingly.
Thus, we can conclude that social media can indeed, influence the outcome of elections in recent times.
Can social media affect the outcome of elections? Use example(s) to illustrate your point(s).
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