Jagmeet Singh’s Tik Tok campaign should make voters think about the relationship between politicians & social media

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New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh has gone viral for using Tik Tok videos to outline his political campaign. Although his strategy might be a move in the right direction, this union of politics and entertainment is a reminder of larger social media concerns.

Certainly, it’s cool the NDP is interacting with current and future supporters through new forms of social media. Engaging with young voters while making the party’s politics more accessible to the public is important.

But Tik Tok may not be the best platform to do this work.

It’s not just a coincidence the app is called an ‘echo chamber’. Although it allows for establishing a loyal network of followers, users influence the recommendations that appear on their “For You Page.” It’s difficult to know whether Tik Tok video views reflect the engagement of new followers or repeated interactions with the old.

Gen Z and millennial Canadians are expected to constitute larger fractions of the voting population in upcoming elections. Singh’s presence on Tik Tok can popularize voting, even for those youth not interested in politics.

Meanwhile, giving a peek into politicians’ personal lives can be a good thing. When constituents see Singh and his wife participating in a viral trend, they see them both as everyday people, just like the people Singh serves.

Thus, the barrier between the politician and the voter is dismantled—potential voters can empathize with members of the governing body. This empathy can lead to making good and confident voting decisions.

At the same time, though, linking politics to social media may only increase the circulation of misinformation.

Scrolling through climate change infographics alongside recent celebrity gossip misrepresents both topics as fads. Young generations are taught to engage with and forget with content as its popularity comes and goes without critically thinking about large-scale decisions.

Tik Tok videos condense political campaigns into minutes. Often, the aspects parties choose to highlight are too good to be true, spurring misinformed youth to idolize the politicians behind the messages. Action items are irresponsibly watered-down into viral snippets—but a voter can’t possibly learn how a politician intends to fix the housing crisis in 30 seconds.

Unfortunately, many politicians abuse this idolatry to gain status and popularity.

Politicians aren’t influencers. They’re responsible for making decisions like how to distribute housing and resources—decisions that impact lives. They must be held accountable for the work they do and how they represent their roles to the public.

Without a doubt, social media can have a positive impact—short, entertaining videos or informative rants can spread information about vital social issues to a larger audience.

But a politician’s personality shouldn’t be the driving force of their campaign—their politics should.

The role of social media in political campaigning is rapidly transforming—Tik Tok may become the new Twitter. It’s up to individual users to consider the consequences and make responsible decisions.

—Journal Editorial Board

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