By Laura Makarewicz
Social media forums are a driving contribution to the dialogue within the 2016 presidential election. With both nominees actively on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram this election is different than any other.
According to a study from the Pew Research Center in January of this year, 44 percent of U.S. adults said they had received information about the 2016 presidential election from social media forums.
Voters such as Kate Bauer, a Western Michigan University art history major, have turned to social media for most, if not all of their information this election.
Bauer gets most her political news from social media and what she hears from friends. But, she is careful about what social media forums she turns to for information.
“The nominees have their own website that holds information on their party’s agenda and platforms. However, voters today seem to be more concerned with the nominees’ Twitter feeds and pages, which only highlight the more negative aspects of the two individuals and the less important issues at hand,” Bauer said.
Bauer hasn’t turned to the nominees’ social media profiles because, she said “they only post slander about the other nominees and minor issues that are not important at this time.”
A professor in WMU’s School of Communication, Chad Edwards, said he was following both nominees on their Twitter pages and all other forums until just recently.
Edwards deleted the election posts by friends on Facebook. As for the social media posts from Trump and Clinton: “They are both disgusting in what they post,” Edwards said.
Edwards talked with many friends and most are just, “done with the election,” he said. He thinks that social media has been driving people to the third party candidates.
A WMU professor of political science, Kevin Corder, said that he has unfollowed the most people in the last four months than he ever has in his whole life.
Corder is an active user of Google newsstand, Mlive, The Wire and New York Times, where he finds his latest news.
“Today, you have to be careful and verify everything before you read it because you can’t trust the social media world,” Corder said.
Corder said that the fact that the nominees are relying on their social media accounts to communicate has the effect of degrading the level of conversation. With the Twitter limit of 140 characters per post, the candidates have to change the way they talk to convey the message they want to send out, Corder noted.
“This is revolutionary,” Corder said. “Donald Trump can use his Twitter account to reach millions of followers, and make national news everyday.”
“If you are relying on social media for political news, odds are you are getting a very distorted view of the world,” Corder said, noting that social media sites such as Facebook curate the messages and posts users see based on their own network of followers, or the stories they are reading and liking. The result is that people tend to see news and opinion they tend to agree with.
WMU student Justin Baker also has unfollowed all friends on social media who are posting ignorant comments — liberal or conservative, it does not matter, he said. Most of the time, the posts Baker sees are obviously for one candidate or the other. Things friends are posting on social media are mainly opinions trying to pass as facts, Baker said.
“The way Facebook is set up, it can create the election to be positive or negative. Today, it has taken a negative toll on it so far,” Baker said.