The 2016 presidential election has been one of the most exciting in recent history, but the excitement came at a steep price.
With the broad use of social media by both campaigns the access to information has never been easier. Increasingly, campaigns are less reliant on the traditional news media to broadcast their messages. This creates a space for campaigns where they can speak to the people about the issues that they think can optimize their chances in the election.
The same system, however, was detrimental to the broader discourse about the election because it allowed the population to underestimate the very real threats looming in its aftermath. People were distracted by jokes and blatant unprofessionalism.
The petty back-and-forth Twitter exchanges between both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump got far more attention than they deserved. Their antics were easily transferrable into memes and viral videos, allowing for a rapid ingestion of political information in a relatively passive way for most millennials by simply scrolling through Facebook and Twitter feeds.
While domination of the Internet is something all politicians running for office strive for, the negative effect it had on the electoral process is clear. The candidates were not pressed nearly enough on a few key issues plaguing their country. Issues like the Supreme Court, the unpopularity of Congress and, most importantly, the environment were ignored, because everyone was too busy focusing on things like the Clinton email scandal, Donald Trump’s taxes, or the “delete your account” assertions and consistent referrals to “Crooked Hillary Clinton”.
Ultimately social media is a tool and its effectiveness depends on how it’s used.
Donald Trump was consistent in his gregarious attitude and penchant for offending almost everyone. He essentially turned himself into a living joke, lulling the entire world into believing that his defeat was imminent, and yet he prevailed.
Everything amounted into a contentious, anti-intellectual, mud-slinging presidential campaign fueled by Twitter feuds and Pepe the frog memes, which led to the election of a demagogue whose party also controls the congress and senate.
The Internet should have made this election more informative, instead it turned the election into a joke, a running gag you could update your friends about every day in a group chat.
Junaid Indawala is a fourth-year political studies student.
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