Current Affairs Features

How is social media influencing the federal election?

As the federal election campaign train burns on, social media has been found to be the new battlefield which politicians must master.

Social media is a battlefield for most users, as we struggle to define our boundaries and explore our cultivated digital landscape. But what happens when social media intertwines with political campaigning?

Politicians must follow where their voters are, which is social media, primarily Facebook and Instagram. Just advertising on television, radio and in the newspaper is no longer a viable option for politicians to push their policies and encourage votes.

federal election SCOMO

Advertising on social media is relatively affordable in comparison to television or radio and holds more potential for parties to interact with their voters. It’s 2019, and two-way communication goes a long way.

Digital advertising also opens the option for micro-targeted messaging, where voters are messaged by parties to inform them of their policies and hit them with the party’s “why”.

There’s little research behind the benefits of politically-motivated instant messaging, but there’s some evidence that there could be a small but influential effect on persuading voters to change their preferences.

Have you ever received a message from a business trying to convince you to buy their products? Well, digital messaging is basically the same in relation to political campaigning but the end product is your vote.

federal election
via Unsplash

Social media is one of the new tools that politicians can use to convey their policies, but it’s only one medium in a number that politicians are using to campaign as the federal election approaches.

A problem that has been brought up by Glenn Kefford, of Macquarie University, is the underlying issue of data privacy and the dreaded foreign interference, that is still fresh on our minds after One Nation and the NRA scandal.

Kefford states, “We should not accept that our data is shared widely as a result of some box we ticked online.”

Should we be seeing advertisements for the political parties we voted for in the state election in our newsfeeds as the election date draws nearer?

Targeted advertisements are something that we’ve all experienced when scrolling through our feeds on Facebook or Instagram. I know I certainly have had a conversation about something and then seen an ad for it on my Instagram. How scary.

Should we be seeing this when it’s in terms of our personal vote for politicians at the federal level?

Kefford also acknowledges that we’re not all as careful with our “digital footprint” as we’d like to think, and perhaps this political party concentration is also a fault of our own. We need to educate ourselves further about our digital footprint and our sharing on the internet because our digital identity holds power.

Although the digital campaign trail holds power over our decision making, it is not the be all and end all of the election. We are reminded that we need to hold our digital footprint with care, and know where our data is going.

Digital campaigning may not sway the federal election but it certainly brings up concerns for our privacy on the internet and where our data is going.

We need to be concerned about what we share in our digital lives and how it affects our personal lives because perhaps in the future this data could be used to influence political campaigns and future state and federal elections.