Social media and millennials: The impact on future elections


WASHINGTON, February 10, 2014 — Social media has put everyone’s everything out in the ether for the world to see. It does not matter if you untagged yourself, you can never untag the shame, or the memory, or the very fact that the picture exists. Your only recourse would be to burn down the internet, but since that would plunge the world into a Mad Maxian post-apocalyptic nightmare, you should probably slow your role, and come to terms with the fact that the picture is there to stay.

But you are not alone. Better yet, you are probably in good company. Those individuals in the 18-34 age bracket who have gone to college or started their professional careers alongside My Space and Facebook have had their lives chronicled for the world to see. And then along came a Twitter, and suddenly it became okay to use the internet to shout at people in a more direct manner than commenting on cat videos or making racially insensitive remarks on a political site.

It’s all out there, people.

All of this impromptu, illogical, but for some reason financially lucrative voluntary information gathering on the part of these social networking sites will have far reaching implications in the landscape of American politics.

Those running for office now, the 45-75 year old politicians who were groomed from their first days at Exeter for high office, worked tirelessly to conceal affairs, to hide money, to cover up mistakes, and to make it look like they are not the scums of the earth. That tireless effort to look squeaky clean and all American, has made chinks in the armor, or social missteps, campaign breakers. Campaigns today, arguably more so than any other time in American history, focus on the character of the opponent rather than the issues at hand.

Just look at Herman Cain. He was up in the polls, that 9/9/9 thing sounded great, and then boop, allegations of an affair and he is out.

Look at congressional and gubernatorial campaigns. Last year in Virginia, one would be hard pressed to find a commercial for the race for governor that was not brutal in attacking the opponent. Cuccinelli and McAuliffe went after each other with a vengeance, and it showed.

One could argue that the prevailing political sentiment now when it comes to voting is that people will vote against a candidate, rather than for a candidate. Campaigns have become contests for who can avoid the bigger scandal, and as a result, the actual issues get busted down to steerage to make room for all the press coverage that comes with a scandal ridden election. Soon enough there will be election reality shows, you heard it here. Right now in Hollywood, some executive producer is trying to pitch to a network somewhere that it would be a good idea to follow the campaign of a famous or even new political candidate. Because elections are not enough of a mockery to begin with.

However, this may all change. In ten to twenty years, when the 18-34-year-olds begin running for serious political office, it will be another game entirely.

There will be years upon years of documented proof of shenanigans, drunken nights, embarrassing tweets, breakup notes, pictures of you wearing a Justin Beiber shirt, quotes about Nickelback. Every single aspect of your life as a young person that makes you cringe as an adult will be out there for the world to see.

But the thing is everyone will be in the same boat. Everyone will have a remarkably embarrassing story to tell, everyone will have a group of friends who saw you ride a dinosaur outside of Kings Dominion theme park. Everyone has that picture or that video that makes them sit back and think, “I have to lay off the Cuervo.”

That will set everyone back onto an even playing field. It’s almost like mutually assured destruction. Any political candidate from the millennial generation will be tempting fate if they go after their opponent for their exposed “Texts From Last Night” history.

When the offspring of social media platforms begin running for serious office, it will be a different game. Imagine a campaign where they have to stay one hundred percent on the issues? It would be insanely informative.

But just for kicks, imagine what it would be like if two candidates of the millennial generation went at each other at a personal level?

Could you imagine that debate?

“What is your stance on foreign policy?” the moderator would say. “Well,” candidate Johnson would say, “I think the issue is more about how when my opponent was quote ‘lol high off my azz at DMB’ on May 6th, 2011.” Then the other candidate would respond with “My opponent is just trying to distract from his recent Facebook scandal involving an incident involving a Kenny Chesney concert and drunk and disorderly conduct.” Followed by, “Just how many cat videos have you watched in the last thirty years?” which of course is countered with “I don’t see how that’s relevant considering your recently discovered comments in the response section of ‘Funny Talking Animals Part 12’, and I don’t think that the pygmy population of New Guinea would find them humorous either.”

That’s a good indicator of what debates will be like in the future.

These are just predictions, it is probable by then that companies will have come into being specializing in eradicating your unwanted social network dalliances from the intrawebs. It would be nice though, to see candidates actually debate one another on the issues. And if social media continues to be an every growing presence in our lives, look for the very first debate broadcast entirely from Facebook over the next ten years.

Unless an individual was smart enough to keep their social media pages clean and free of controversy, which is highly unlikely, within the next twenty years there will be a shift from character assassination to a concentration on the issues. There will of course be a period of turmoil and Facebook scandals as millennials begin to enter the political fray, but after some time we may see the rise of clean, issue driven elections. But then again we may not, and elections will become like reality tv shows, and Democracy and our Republic will become one, big, reality show. Welcome to Whose Country is it Anyway, where the Laws are Made up, and the people don’t matter. Deep down you know that someone has pitched this, and you are very afraid.

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