My radio segment this week on The Son Rise Morning Show with Brian Patrick looked at an interesting study just out from Pew Internet. Civic Engagement in the Digital Age found — not surprisingly — that:
Social networking sites have grown more important in recent years as a venue for political involvement, learning, and debate. Overall, 39% of all American adults took part in some sort of political activity on a social networking site during the 2012 campaign.
I found the following points in the report to be notable:
- Social networking sites (SNS) have grown more important in recent years as a venue for political involvement, learning, and debate.
- 69% of the voting population are now active on SNS
- Overall, 39% of all American adults took part in some sort of political activity on a social networking site during the 2012 campaign (as compared to 26% in 2008)
- SNS are places to connect with political causes and issues: 17% of voters posted links to political stories and 12% “liked” a candidate, party, or political group on SNS
I think I’ve sufficiently recovered from the PTSD of election season to reasonably answer a question that host Brian Patrick asked me in the interview: “What has social networking done in regards to revealing the political affiliations fo our friends and family members?” It seems to me that the election cycle found many of my online connections loudly — and not always gracefully — proclaiming their affiliations, often in the name of faith. Many used their Facebook and Twitter profile images to campaign for their favorite candidates and causes. A Twitter contact confided to me yesterday that he unfriended many during that time due to their incivility in expressing their views. I’m sad to share that I was compelled to do the same in a few extreme circumstances.
But the news from this Pew study holds some hope as well for true “civic engagement”:
- 43% of social networking site users said they decided to learn more about a political or social issue because of something they read about on a social networking site.
- 18% of social networking site users said they decided to take action involving a political or social issue because of something they read on those sites.
It’s easy to see the tremendous power of our social networking tools to convey information, to rally for causes, and — it appears — to occasionally translate words into action. The challenge is to remember to employ our online platforms with grace and tact, and to spend more time “serving” than “liking”.
A question for you: Did you use your social networking profile to support your favorite candidates and causes in the last election? Did you encounter any online “civic engagement” that troubled, bothered or deterred you from supporting a candidate or issue?