If you’re involved on political Twitter, you have probably seen plenty of people tweet a hot take that “social media activism isn’t real activism.”

I disagree.

I should be clear that I will always believe that door knocking and face to face conversations are what drive true change in politics. In fact, we should encourage others to advocate and volunteer for politicians and policies they believe in on their campus and their communities. However, to say that social media plays no role in elections or in politics is simply untrue.

There is more political content on social media than there has ever been.

We see friends from high school sharing political posts on Facebook.

Protests being featured on SnapChat.

We see strangers tweeting their opinions in just a few short sentences.

Instagram shows our friends attending rallies we didn’t even know were happening.

Sharing your opinions publicly is a form of activism, whether you believe it or not.

Social media gives politicians, activists, lobbyists, etc. direct contact with voters like never before. 

People running for office use social media every day to push their stances, campaign initiatives, and talking points. These tweets are often welcomed, shared, or retweeted. Politicians also share short campaign videos and political parties will share short clips to rally their base. It’s completely normal for politicians to use their platforms for activism, but as a soon as activists do it, many people say “well that isn’t activism” right after they share the video of the candidate they’re volunteering for. Why share the video if you don’t think it’s going change anyone’s minds?

Oh right, because you know that people will see it. You are wanting as many hits on an article or views on a video as possible. The more people you reach, the more your cause, candidate, or organization is out there. Majority of the people you might reach on these platforms are not politically active. They are normally friends, family, maybe someone you worked with a few years ago, or someone random that you know through mutual friends, but never met. This creates an opportunity to engage those individuals. According to the Pew Research Center, eight of ten social media users feels like their social media platform of choice has helped them become more engaged and involved with issues that they take interest in.

Also in Pew Research Center’s piece on The Tone of Social Media Discussions Around Politics is that roughly 1 in 5 people have had their mind changed on a politician or a political stance because of something they saw on social media. That number might be too low for some people, but when you work in politics, you know that every single vote matters. One in five could help win an election.

Why wouldn’t you welcome the use of social media? Social media is essentially free advertising for the politician, organization, party, or issue you’re wanting to stand for. Some politicians will even film videos and release them as a way to generate support without having to pay for the commercial that most people will tune out or even walk away from. By having the option of sharing this video or post by hitting a button, more people will see it when other like minded voters share this information on their pages. While door knocking, phone banking, and other campaign activities may continue to be a cornerstone for winning elections, we should also be embracing social media and what it has to offer. 

With social media, you can see what campaign techniques are working and what messages aren’t working almost instantaneously. You can tailor your messages to certain audiences – allowing campaigns, activists, organizations, and politicians to share their message in a way that can be incredibly effective and engaging. Knowing that it is primarily younger or middle aged people that these messages will be reaching, it’s important to know what they care about when it comes to issues that matter most to them. It definitely helps candidates, campaigns, organizations, and activists gauge political opinion. At this day in age, you can get something going viral fairly easily if it comes about at the right time and it’s geared toward the right audience.

RELATED READ: OPINION: Stop Hating Hashtag Activism

It is essential to have a presence on social media at this point in time and in this kind of culture. We need to have accessible politicians who are putting their platform positions online in just a few short sentences. Social media activism has been happening in campaigns for years now. It will continue to be a big part of campaigns. Discrediting people who also participate in social media activism is kind of silly. Could they get out and door knock? Yes. The two forms of activism are not mutually exclusive. 

Everything in politics, such as fundraising, tweeting about your favorite politician, sharing their information online, or even making a funny video about your candidate’s opponent, is helpful. Just because what you say is over a screen doesn’t take away from the validity of your stance.

Keep tweeting, keep posting, but don’t forget to keep it positive.

RELATED READ: You’re Not Overqualified To Doorknock, Table, or Phone Bank

Caroline C.
FFL Cabinet Member
Follow Caroline on Twitter!