Social media and its effects on politics

Politicians had a much easier job before the advent of current technology. Before television and radio, there was little need for a president to have much charisma, to have the ability to connect with people on a “deeper level,” and there was certainly no need for them to have a media image. The majority of Americans did not know what their Congressmen or even Presidents looked like, save for a few images that would be printed in the newspaper.

Nowadays, our politicians must cultivate the perfect public image, as everything they say and do will and can be reported within a matter of minutes and through a number of different mediums. Political candidates must have a good on-screen presence, and have excellent media training in conveying the right tone in their messages. A candidate must be able to capture an audience’s attention and convey a sense of their self in a 30 second political ad. The advent of instantaneous news causes Presidents to now have to “respond to press queries even before they have received official word of crucial events,” (Lyons 49).

The greater importance that is placed on a politician’s public image has without a doubt, affected how we view them and who we elect. Whether you are a supporter of President Obama or not, the man without a doubt has strong charisma and an excellent public image which he capitalized on in his presidential campaign. However, the greater importance placed on public image has also brought along the tendency to scrutinize what can be perceived as insignificant details. When news of the Obamas bringing a dog into the White House came out, the speculation began on what breed/type of dog it would be. Many people criticized their choice of a pure-bred Portuguese water dog as opposed to a more “media friendly” choice of a shelter dog. The Obama family’s choice of dog garnered considerable media coverage, which raises the question: Does it really matter? Does their choice of dog reflect on Obama’s ability to lead our nation? The same can be said about the attention that is often placed on the First Lady, such as what she wears, the causes she supports, and how she represents the family as a whole. The children of presidents are subjected to the same scrutinity. While most citizens would realize that these details rarely affect a president’s ability, we have evolved to unconsiously consider these details because we are constantly exposed to it through social media.


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