404 Error…Government Not Found: Does Internet Increase Participation in Democracy?

Before we start, let’s get one thing straight. In my two and half years of being a legal adult in this United States of America, I…okay…I…breath now Alex, breath…I have never voted *gasp* *judge* *screams of agony and heresy*. I know, I know, how can such an intelligent and opinionated man (and not too bad looking either) not be part of ‘Murica’s beautiful right to pick our leaders? With the new uses of technology in political climates, surely I would be more involved, right? Before I get on my soap box, I’m going to step down and thoroughly understand the effect of technology in the world of politics.

Let’s start with America, shall we?

Yeah! We like America! No really, on Facebook, I "liked" America. It was there so I clicked it...

Yeah! We like America! No really, on Facebook, I “liked” America. It was there so I clicked it…

In the 2008 election, Barack Obama and John McCain went head to head in an epic battle for presidency. Why was it epic? It wasn’t because it was heavily controversial, it was because social media came into play for the first time ever in a presidential election. Barack Obama’s prowess in the world of social media netted in digital literates and digital natives i.e. the young vote. He successfully used Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to spread his ideas and gather support, even if it wasn’t him or his organization directly. In reality, he was just testing the waters. Connecting with a large audience through a digital medium seemed audacious. Nevertheless, it was extremely effective gaining him the win. People found easy to decide that he was the right choice. In 2012, he stepped it up. Even though his approval ratings were sliding, he wasn’t going to let that stop him. He doubled, if not tripled, his efforts in the use of technology. This time he involved the people more. One great example is his AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit. This was a large forum of users asking the president himself questions which then he promptly answered. This event really impressed the internet crowd improving relations once again. Obama also exploded Tweeted multiple times with informative and personable tweets. With that, he became a popular hashtag and topic often on the Twitter platform which can be clearly seen in this infographic during the Democratic National Convention. He even embraced memes and any other silly things connected to him. Overall, Obama dominated the world of social media involving the audience as much as he can while still being a person. In other words, he was cool.

Not bad Obama, not bad at all...

Not bad Obama, not bad at all…

Elections aren’t the only way internet has pushed politics in America .

Currently, there are a ton of websites dedicated towards petitions. Obviously, you can pick any one and click your mouse to push your opinion. However, the better (and more practical) option would be going to the official White House petition site.There are a quite a few petitions that you can cast a vote towards if they spark your fire. You can even make your own if you wanted to. It has guidelines to make sure that the petition is readily wanted as well as serious though, but it does give you a voice. Another example of how the government involved the citizens would be the FCC comment page. The page allowed for people to comment on certain actions the FCC may or may not do giving the opinion of the world wide web users a chance. Makes sense. The government continues to utilize the internet as much as possible. Not only that, with the vast arrays of news websites and political party websites, you can read all the news about the government you want. Shoot, you can even watch the conversation at the House of Representatives about a bill that stops people from wearing shoes backwards (that’s not really real, but boy if it was…).

This means people will increasingly involve themselves in the world of politics again, right?

Ha!

I’ll make this short and sweet so you can dabble over this yourself. You’ll hear my opinion at the end. The 2014 midterm election was the lowest turnout in 70 years. 70 freaking years! And I didn’t help. Why? Think about it for a bit while I continue.

Once again, the keyboard company really screwed up my keyboard.

Once again, the keyboard company really screwed up my keyboard.

Internet also pushes for radical political change in other nations.

Over the past few years, the internet has really done a mark on the world. Take for example the Egyptian Revolution. This TED talk beautifully explains how it has done so, but let me elaborate some more. Social media is free (other than the cost of providing internet connection), fast, and large. You can reach anyone with a few well written sentences and a click. The article Reporting War: Exploring the role of Twitter and social media in revolutions by Daniel Bennett sums it up best. The two most prominent that were in the article to me were spreading the ideas and initial organization and the importance of YouTube. The TED talk excellently explains the first one, but lacks to talk about the importance of video. Watching videos, no matter what the material, involves the listener fully. Spreading the video of violent government, peaceful protest, and desire for change speak to anybody that watch. You can really see this in the Hong Kong protests. The article then continues, however, to explain how it can also be used against them. This was especially seen during the Libyan and Syrian revolutions where violence was seen used especially on the revolutionary sides.

Thanks to American obesity, we can't do this anymore.

Thanks to American obesity, we can’t do this anymore.

So that’s that, that’s some opinions, so let me get on my soap box real quick to explain why I don’t vote (and many of my friends) don’t vote much.

You see that I have showed you many resources that can get you involved with democracy and social movements, however, is it really effective to me? No. It is actually detrimental. I know too much. I see too much. I read, watch, and listen too much. This has caused to feel like I can’t do anything in this world. I can like this and that, but I can’t really do anything. Even if I vote, what real change can do since, based off this and that website, these people are literally the same. Like everyone in this age, we feel like we can’t do anything because it seems like everything is ruined. Why should we try and pick up the pieces that we didn’t cause?

That’s that, that’s all I have to say and I could on and on for hours about this, but I shouldn’t get too off topic.

So has internet helped. By what I have read, yes. By what I believe, no.

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