As voting begins for the 2015 General Election, we take a look at how Social Media’s role will be to push democracy!
As Big Ben struck 7am and the UK rubbed its eyes with a degree of optimism, polling stations around the country opened their doors. With the vote very much in the balance, the responsibility of the day lies with every UK citizen who has the right to vote. Will it be Labour or will it be Tory? Will Farage’s ability to hold a pint be rewarded, or will the SNP forget their Independence vote and gain a seat in Westminster? Every single X on the ballot paper is as important as the next for the future of this country.
For the first year in UK political history, social media has finally jumped on the election bandwagon to encourage voters to use their power. I say finally because for many years has the likes of Twitter and Facebook assisted in the democracy of the US, mainland Europe and Scotland, with record turnouts being reported throughout. Today we have witnessed the two big dogs introduce simple yet effective ways for us to encourage one another. Facebook have gone for their trusty “I’m a Voter” button. With one simple click users are able to claim they have either voted or intend to do so. This then appears on their news feed, which is shared with all of their ‘Friends’. Simple. Though this does include a significant amount of peer pressure to take effect.
As a subtle way of attempting to increase votes, it could be hugely significant. With 35 million users of Facebook in the UK, it would be interesting to see what percentage of those would claimed to have only voted because of this button.
Twitter has also done its part to encourage voting. Keep it simple, keep it quick. The hashtag, as well all know, has launched itself well beyond Twitter, proving how it can be a fantastic form of delivering concise information on a regular basis. #IVoted has been trending since the polls opened this morning, and will most likely continue to do so until the result is announced during the early hours on Friday morning. Much like Facebook, users are sharing when they have cast their vote, encouraging their follows to do the same.
Not only are both of these techniques meant to encourage voting in general, it should significantly increase voting among the younger generations (as long as they are of age to vote of course). They are meant to be the most active users of such social media sites, with peer pressure expecting to have a relatively high impact.
The general response towards Facebook and Twitter making these temporary changes has been reasonably positive. Looking at my own Facebook wall some claim that the overwhelming reminder is somewhat annoying, yet they are still tempted to press this big new button!
Outside of social media, Channel 4 are also doing their part to try and increase voting among younger viewers, switching off E4 from 7am to 7pm. Mixed reviews for this approach though. Subtle hints through Facebook and Twitter are one thing, turning off a TV channel, a step too far? If it works and more people are encouraged to vote and become briefly involved in politics, then maybe missing an episode of The Big Bang Theory is not exactly a bad thing.
Once again the power of social media and digital is being demonstrated. One man knocking on your door won’t encourage voting in the modern era, it’s more likely to encourage a swift door slamming. Instead regularly subtlety and moderate peer pressure might prove to have great affect. It’s a fascinating industry to become a part of, and its limits seem to be endless.
You could play CandyCrush, or you could decide your country’s future. A big deal, with fantastic career prospects. What next for social media? Bets on for it winning the World Cup or solving world poverty.