Friday, April 8, 2011

Why Social Media Matters in This Election

The federal parties are primarily using Twitter and Facebook to market their brand even more than their political positions. Most of us in the social media world take these now conventional strategies with a healthy grain of salt. That's not where the action really is.

Far more ordinary citizens from every demographic group, old and young, and far more journalists are using social media to communicate during this election than in 2008. One very tangible benefit of that is a wider awareness of the public's perspective for the journalists, and that knowledge affects their reporting if not in direct ways then subtly. In other words, there really is a political effect at least in terms of communication spread. In fact, in some ironic ways, it could be argued that all this activity online is not about politicians but ordinary, politically active Canadians and journalists, who have twittered among themselves fiercely, bouncing off each other since day one.

But the most important benefit of participation in social media during this election for ordinary Canadians, both politically and psychologically, is its empowering effect -- the very sense that one is actually involved, actively politically engaged, really in the game, doing something, being part of it all somehow, illusory as that might be in reality.  I say might, not is. It generates a sense of individual political power -- people power, if you will.  And so perhaps the therapeutic effect of self-expression in such a context should not be underestimated either.  The full effect of this democratic phenomenon has not yet been fully analyzed, but it tells us in the meantime that democracy, in all its messy forms, is alive and well in Canada.

This is my response to this piece in The Globe

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