In Case You Missed It: New Media is the Star of the 2016 Election

Regardless of how one might feel about his candidacy, it is clear that Donald Trump has managed to captivate audiences (voters and the media alike) by effectively using Twitter in a campaign that, according to Slate, “is a continuous Trump rally at all hours on Twitter.” 

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Trump has been able to craft his appeal by frequently using a combination of emotionally charged language, short but pointed words and sentences, and a constant critique of his critics and rivals. Whether they follow him because they support him or because they simply want to see what seemingly outrageous thing he will say next, Trump has 10.5 million Twitter followers and his tweets manage to make the news almost daily.

From YouTube to Facebook to Twitter and beyond

Likewise, last year Hillary Clinton used YouTube to announce her candidacy for president. The video went viral and was accompanied by separate Facebook and Twitter announcements. Additionally, as of late, Clinton’s campaign team has seemed to perfect the art of the “burn,” using social media to respond to and in some cases, troll, Donald Trump. In June, Trump wrote: “Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama—nobody else does!” Five minutes later, the Clinton campaign sent out a three-word tweet directed at the Republican frontrunner: “Delete your account.” That tweet resulted in more than 640,000 likes and more than 482,000 retweets.

In the October 4th 2010 issue of The New Yorker magazine, Malcolm Gladwell made the case that “the revolution will not be tweeted.” His premise was that new media tools and online activism do not translate into offline participation and mobilization. I wholeheartedly disagree. Whether Gladwell likes it or not, in 2016, it’s clear that the revolution, or in this case the campaign, will be tweeted. In fact, I believe that it will be tweeted, Periscoped, Facebooked, and Snapchatted.

On June 22nd, House Democrats staged a sit-in to force their Republican colleagues to vote on gun control bills. The Republicans adjourned the session and subsequently turned off the C-SPAN cameras, which live broadcasted the proceedings in Congress. Determined not to be deterred, one house Democrat began broadcasting the sit-in on Periscope from his smart phone. Traditional cable and network news outlets began to stream the Periscope feed to their audiences. Other Democrats conducted interviews via FaceTime once the sit-in was over. At the same time, a conversation on Twitter trended with the hashtag #NoBillNoBreak. Whether or not the bill passed at this point, seems inconsequential. The public was captivated by the sit-in and the debate about gun violence was given center stage once again in national discourse.

This marks a clear shift from how campaigns used new media in 2012

Social media was of course used back then too, but in the last four years what has changed is how people consume news and information online—largely shifting their focus from traditional news outlets and more toward online networks. Many people now get their news and information from Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, and the like instead of intentionally directing their attention toward formal news sites.

One thing is certain in this unpredictable election

Who knows who will be elected the next President of the United States in November? This election cycle has been unpredictable at best. However, one thing is abundantly clear: new media has revolutionized how campaigns are run, how they communicate with the public, and how the general citizenry learns the latest news about politics. The faces of who is running for office will change, the social media platforms will expand, but the use of new media as a tool for political engagement is here to stay.

Intrigued by this topic, and interested in earning an advanced degree from a school that shares your values of social justice? I invite you to learn more about Adler University’s M.A. in Media and Communications program, available fully online.

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