Social media affects personal politics, students say

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With countless tweets constantly streaming through the Twitterverse, it can be easy for one to think their opinions don’t matter. But according to one student group, social media may have serious real world implications, including at the voting booth.

Tonight at Parlin Hall, Texas Political Union will host a discussion and debate dedicated to the role and influence of social media in politics. Moderator and TPU member, Neil Shah, said the questions he plans to ask at the discussion will highlight the ups and downs of social media as a tool for political opinion and dialogue.

“If politics comes into (people’s) life through social media, then they are much more likely to be engaged in politics,” Shah said. “Or at least thinking about politics.”

Shah also said that while social media gives us more access to politics, it can also negatively affect our understanding of certain issues by giving the ability to pick and choose what we see and share.

“You don't share an article where it's like ‘oh they had some really thoughtful analysis and maybe they came to a conclusion I didn't like’ that's not what you share on Facebook,” Shah said.

Camilla Kampmann, fellow TPU member and government sophomore, said due to the substantial amount of time we spend on our phones, the opinions and discussions we see on social media could have a greater effect on us than we realize.

“We touch our phones like 47 times a day,” Kampmann said. “It’s kind of scary because we’re around it all the time, and so much of or views and opinions come from social media.”

Garrett Mireles, an advertisement junior who teaches his own workshop on personal branding and social media, said social media has, in a way, taken on the role of information from traditional media like the newspaper, radio or TV, and that he reads social media the way one would a newspaper.

“Social media as it exists now is really a system of resources we use to inform, entertain and connect,” Mireles said.

Mireles said even though social media has taken over traditional media’s role, it has also provided consumers the ability to interact with others, which could help by allowing for interaction, or hinder by allowing them to specifically edit what news they are seeing.

“Social media is a good way to reach people, making politics more accessible,” Mireles said. “But that comes with even greater need for a look at ethics.”

Priyanka Mara, a government senior, said because social media is how we communicate now that it shouldn’t be a surprise, or even a problem for social media to be the platform in which we discuss politics.

“The way we communicate about political things does not necessarily have to deviate from the way we communicate about most other things as well,” Mara said. “Social media is just a natural foot people use to communicate ideas and feelings, and that's all politics is.”

Mara noted while it may take a while for both consumers and producers of news and politics to accept the shift of conversation to social media, the change is a necessary one.

“It's a rough transition but a transition we’re going to have to make,” Mara said.