Starting as a simple form of connecting and keeping up with friends and relatives, social media has evolved, becoming a prominent component of our daily interactions. Becoming more prominent towards the end of the 2000’s, in the 2010’s social media has exploded onto the main scene. With this explosion of connectivity, social media in recent years has been responsible for major global events that have affected millions of people. Here are 4 times that social media helped change the world.
Obama’s 2008 campaign
When then Senator Barack Obama declared his intention of running for the highest office in the land, he had quite the challenge ahead of him. From having to surpass then Senator Hillary Clinton, and the other Democratic candidates in the field, to winning the general election against Senator John McCain, Senator Obama became the first person to effectively use social media as a medium to reach voters.
Mostly active on Facebook, his posts would be a 1-2 daily policy piece, or occasionally a more “humanizing” piece, such as campaign employees sending out pictures of being stuck in traffic. This eliminated a lot of rhetoric, gave Mr. Obama a platform to directly reach voters, and helped to Get Out the Vote.
About 30% of voters in the 2008 election admitted to being persuaded both to vote and for whom to vote, by a family member or friend over social media.
Compared to former President John F. Kennedy’s ability to effectively television, while running against former President Richard Nixon, President Obama opened a Pandora’s Box by using social media to connect to voters.
It’s December in Tunisia. A local fruit vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, was tired of being mistreated and abused by the local government and police. He took to protest through an act of self-immolation. His death from such an act wouldn’t go unnoticed. Captured on video for Tunisians and the rest of the world to see, this act was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Tunisia had a martyr to rally around, as they witnessed his act of defiance on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and almost every other platform of social media.
But the impact social media had on the Arab Spring didn’t end there. Twitter became a focal point for revolutionaries to speak their minds, and organize protests. From Tahrir Square in Egypt to the streets of Morocco, the Arab world was in full-fledged protest and revolt. Even when the local governments attempted to shut down the internet or block sites to prevent communication, Twitter worked with the people to keep their voices heard. Although the Arab Spring still goes on today in some countries, social media's involvement at the height of its protests was undeniably valuable.
Occupy Wall Street
Around the time of the Arab Spring, the idea that the US needed their “own Tahrir Square” began.. In order to protest the corruption, greed, and status-quo that lead to the 2008 economic crisis, thousands of people from across the country came to lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, in the financial district otherwise known as Wall Street. A movement which caught international attention, the main protests of Occupy Wall Street lasted several months and spawned many other protests across the US. All of which were orchestrated and promoted through social media.
Although the direct results of the movement are still debated today, the way they changed both the narrative of economic issues in our country, and helped the people communicate their anger to the politicians and elected officials who represent them.99
Obama’s 2012 Campaign
Returning to the platform that helped him secure the 2008 election, President Barack Obama utilized social media even more than the first time around. If the idea behind 2008 was effectiveness, AKA how each post or idea was crucial and important to get just right, the idea behind 2012 was efficiency. The platforms became a little looser, and more informal than previously. With an already-huge following on social media, President Obama changed his strategy up while running for his second term.
With the use of data mining and targeted reaching out, he was able to effectively reach many more people than before. This meant, for example, he would get demographics and metrics for Facebook users. From there, he would have someone who matches that demographic, gives them a sense of connection, to reach out to the voters of that demographic. The data mining would also allow the Obama campaign to promote events and get-togethers that would interest particular groups. An example was seeing that women on the west coast between ages 40-49 were collectively enthralled with George Clooney, so having a fundraiser to meet and dine with both was essential in fundraising. As the analytics grew in size and measurements, the ability to target-campaign grew too.
Social media also enhanced the idea of participating in politics. Getting people involved and active, gave people a sense of ownership. The idea that they do play a role in the nation’s politics, that their activism and voting matter, they owned the future of the country. Having run this effective campaign, the incumbent President Obama was elected to his second term in office.