Stars, Stripes & Instagram: Social Media’s Impact on the Midterms
Last Tuesday, I, like many other Americans, took to the polls to vote in the Midterm elections. Well, technically, I took to the polls when I sent in my Illinois absentee ballot a few weeks ago, but you get the point. The midterm elections turned out to be monumental; the first Native American congresswomen, the first openly gay governor, the first Muslim women in Congress, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress and the largest turnout of Millennial voters in history are just a few benchmarks. I can’t help but chalk up some of these history-making election results to the impact of social media. While social media’s influence on the previous election was full of fake news and click-bait, I firmly believe that social media had an extremely positive effect on this year’s elections, especially when it came to young voters.
It’s hard to deny that social media had an influence on the midterm elections when a single Instagram post by Taylor Swift resulted in thousands and thousands of millennials registering to vote. It wasn’t just celebrities and politicians voicing their opinions on the election, either. I was pleasantly surprised, and also incredibly proud of my generation when my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds became filled with posts from my peers encouraging each other to do their civic duty and vote. Several of my own posts on Instagram even sparked questions from my friends and peers about how to register to vote and the importance of the midterm elections. In my opinion, this is the right way to use social media: to drive conversation and ignite change.
After the fake news catastrophes of the last election, it was inspiring to see social networks step it up and use their spans of influence for good. Snapchat helped register over 400,000 voters by adding a voter registration button to the homepage of users over 18 that directed them to a nonpartisan voter registration website and also added polling locations to its “Snap Map” feature on election day. Hashtags like Instagram’s #IVoted and Twitter’s #BeAVoter campaign, which gave users access to voter registration information with just one click, gave voting a sense of community and allowed social media users to share their voting experience.
Politicians, much like any organization or entity in today’s day and age, need to incorporate social media into their communications strategy to be successful. During this election cycle, countless politicians connected with voters on social media. According to the New York Times, Facebook was where Republican candidates drove the highest engagement from voters, and Democratic candidates succeeded in driving engagement on Instagram.
As a young voter, I felt like I had a front row seat to this year’s election thanks to social media. I’ve never felt more involved in or more informed about an election. It was inspiring to see the country rally together about voting across every social platform, and I am excited to see what impact the ever-changing nature of social media will have on the 2020 presidential election in our ever-changing country.
Luttrell, Regina. Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect. Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.