Social Media, the New Political Moderator

With 80% of the United States population and 2.7 billion people worldwide on social media, it is difficult for one to doubt the power behind the apps powered by our phones. This is true for many aspects of today’s world, but one arena, in which social media is always ultra present, is politics. Whether through a trending topic on Twitter, or the top news story on Facebook, social media can be the main place many eighteen to twenty-four year olds receive their news.

With such a wide casting impact, social media delegates power to the hands of influencers who wield high followings. This phenomenon was exemplified when Taylor Swift sent out an Instagram post to her 112 million followers, and voter registration shot up all across the US. To cite raw numbers, the initial increase in voter registration was about 65,000 across all demographics.

In Swift’s bold post, she both publicly and explicitly denounced one of Tennessee’s Republican candidates, stating, “In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now...I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans.” Taylor made several other bold statements with regards to pressing political topics, and explained how these have led her to harbor strong enough feelings to create the post. Coincidentally, in the state of Tennessee, voter registration shot up. Some experts say that Swift’s encouragement may even be enough to turn the state blue, if her impact is great enough.

There still remains debate as to whether Taylor Swift’s post drove the surge in voter registration. Many speculate surges could have been caused by other sources, such as the fact that it was the second-to-last day to register to vote in Tennessee. Many links, however, point to Taylor’s impact, such as the fact that the main age demographics with increased registration were the eighteen to twenty-nine year old demographic, exactly Swift’s fanbase. Although more analysis will have to be done to determine if this was in fact the true causal effect on Tennessee voter registration numbers, in this instance, it is probably fair to say that correlation does in fact mean causation.

It’s interesting that Taylor prefaces her post with the fact that she strays away from sharing her powerful political opinions, but this post perfectly exemplifies why celebrities should do just that, as long as it is done in a proper and productive way. Social media has provided individuals with a voice like never before. It offers a space where you can share your thoughts and opinions with millions in the click of a button, often less than ten seconds worth of time. The ease of participating in social media often overshadows the weight rooted behind each post. I think Taylor Swift demonstrated why it is important to productively communicate your views, in a way that's meant to inform and advise.

I commend Taylor Swift, and celebrities like her who use their voice to do their civic duty, and encourage others of her caliber to do the same. This is also another example of the powerful voices that social media can create, and we should be thankful for moments in which those who wield large followings choose to use their influence wisely and constructively.