The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: Social Media & Politics

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: Social Media & Politics

In recent years, the use of social media in politics has become increasingly prevalent and has made a substantial impact on the way in which we interact with political figures. Since the 2008 US election, which many have dubbed the ‘Facebook Election’, the number of political figures increasing their usage of these platforms has expanded significantly. This change has led to political figures becoming far more accessible and accountable to the broader public.

More than that though, public participation in politics has also hit a new level. If you think of the 2016 US elections, it’s not difficult to remember the many hashtags or the meme wars that came out of it. Who doesn’t remember things like: #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, #NastyWoman and #Thedeplorables.

trump-hillary-memes-2016

Photo credit: Brostrick

It didn’t stop there

The political activism didn’t stop with the election, however, but continued beyond it every day with fresh memes and posts about people’s favourite politicians. It’s more than just posting funny content though, people are also coming out on their preferred platforms to state their opposition or support of certain elected officials and are, in effect, providing them with free political advertising. Something many politicians would kill for.

Politicians are always scrambling for airtime on whatever platform in order to remain relevant. With the use of social media, political figures need to constantly come out with interesting content to ensure that they are kept in people’s news feeds. As Nicholas Carr put it, “you’re only as relevant as your latest tweet”.

O’Canada

When you think about the Canadian context, would you expect to hear that the hashtag exposure per hour for #cdnpoli is over 170,000? Or that the exposure for #primeminister is over 2000? #Trudeau receives a much lower exposure of only 283 per hour, but that is significantly higher than Scheer or Singh, who don’t feature on ritetag.com at all.

You could say that Canada is still easing into the political game on social media by comparison to our neighbours to the south, but that may not be the worst thing.

The Trump card

These Canadian figures are nothing compared to the US. For example, #Trump’s hashtag exposure per hour is a staggering 15,902,629.

My feelings aside, Trump is extraordinarily adept at capturing an audience on social media. Love him or hate him, he’s got the idea down pat. He knows just how to bait and feed his audience and knows exactly what to do to dominate online discussions by provoking those around him. Just look at the tweet below as an example.

Trump

(Photo credit: @realDonaldTrump via Twitter)

If you support him, the tweet is great. You know roughly where he’s headed based on the statement that he’s made. If you don’t like him, this statement is inflammatory enough that you will probably retweet it and make some negative comment about him. As we know, even negative attention can have some positive impacts, especially for someone as well known as Trump.

Posts Can Harm and Help

That said though, I believe that politicians can no longer put thoughts out into the world without carefully considering the consequences. Tweets or posts can have the ability to pose serious threats to our world, whether that be to peace, security, provoking hatred and violence, and so on. It can take a team to carefully curate a political figure’s social media presence. This obviously isn’t the case for Donald Trump, however, it certainly is something that he should consider going forward if he wants to avoid utter catastrophe.

These posts, memes, and viral videos also have the ability to shape political ideas and ultimately policy. For example, some of you may be familiar with the “Between Two Ferns” interview between Zach Galifianakis and Barack Obama. The video covered a lot of ridiculous content, but also had a strategic goal for the White House. They were aiming to increase traffic to Healthcare.gov. The video now has over 22,230,000 views and according to one source, the video drove more 19,000 referral visits to Healthcare.gov within a matter of hours. All that free play, for no cost.

screen_shot_2014-03-11_at_7.34.42_pm

(Photo credit: hollywoodreporter.com)

All that said, we must be cognizant of what is being put out into the world through social media channels politically and ensure that we are participating in the political sphere in the most responsible way that we can. I think that going forward, political engagement on social media will become more significant and by maintaining our engagement, we can try to ensure that positive changes are being made.

Do you follow political figures on social media? Do you think that what we say on social media has the ability to affect political thought and action?

 

twitter The political game on social media, a look at the good, the bad and the ugly – http://bit.ly/2ytJ8eb #politics

facebook Social media is changing the way that we engage in politics. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly – http://bit.ly/2ytJ8eb

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I want you to want me: Addicted to likes

I want you to want me: Addicted to likes

Do you spend time watching for likes? Do you feel sad or anxious that your post isn’t getting enough traction? A lot of people are in the same boat. There are so many people looking for positive reinforcement online. Something that tells us that what we’re doing is interesting, we’re traveling to amazing places, our food looks incredible, that we look great, our kids or pets are adorable, the list could go on and on. Long story short, we’re addicted to likes.

Likes tend to be a fairly low-effort way of getting feelings of social well-being, feelings that are far harder to come by in real life. In our day-to-day life, personal connection with others is key. We get reassurance from physical contact, facial expressions, etc. This is harder to accomplish and is by no means instantaneous. Reinforcement online is fast and easy. We get a certain feeling of euphoria when we get likes. However, it’s a bit like a drug, and we always go back wanting more. The same amount of likes as last time will never be enough.

This can become even more pronounced when you factor in personal branding, particularly because we are now more connected to our professional networks than ever before. We don’t want to be embarrassed by a post that flops, so we’re driven to come up with the best content for the sake of our metrics.

We’re Trophy Hunters

By being so connected to social media, with the average person spending about 109 minutes on social media platforms each day, we’re at a real risk of having likes become more important than how we’re perceived in reality. One new study found that 3 out of 4 people admitted to being rude or disconnected with others when posting on social media. Another finding showed that people would in fact post something online that they wouldn’t otherwise say in reality. When exactly did it become the norm to check-out from reality in order to capture that perfect moment for your followers? When did we become ‘trophy hunters’?

We all know that person who stops everything to get the perfect picture or video, maybe even gets in trouble to do it? How about the person who won’t let anyone eat until you’ve Insta’d it? Perhaps it’s the parent who misses what their kids are doing to check to see how their post is doing? Wherever you fall on this spectrum, whether it’s you, kind of you, or just someone you know, we all need to find a way to get back to living in the moment.

DYK?

Did you know that about 58% of people admitted that trying to get the ideal post had actually kept them from enjoying life in the moment? Think of what we’re missing, all just to reinforce those positive feelings. We’re missing the opportunity to live in the moment, enjoy the game, the concert, a meal or time with friends and family that is uninterrupted by screen time.

So, what do we do?

Something that we may want to ask ourselves before deciding to post, is if there were no likes would you still post? Would you still share that moment with your network? If the answer is no, then maybe you reconsider the need to share. Some have even installed demetricators (available for Facebook) to take likes entirely out of the equation.

If you’re not quite ready to go to that far, there is no harm in taking some downtime from technology. Take some time to reconnect to the things and people around you. I would argue that people in fact need this time away from technology. While I enjoy social media as much as the next person, we are too often letting these platforms have excessive control over our attention.

So let’s try to keep things in perspective and recognize the fact that likes online are not the ‘be all and end all’. We need to value moments in the real world.

Do you think you like likes too much? Do you know someone who does?

 

twitter I want you to want me! Otherwise known as being #addicted to likes – Check out my latest blog @ http://bit.ly/29giPNp

facebook Do you like ‘likes’ a little too much? It turns out a lot of us are #addicted! Find out more @ http://bit.ly/29giPNp

Help! Social media is making me scared of my food!

Help! Social media is making me scared of my food!

Have you ever wondered where your food comes from? Do you wonder what’s really in there? You’re not alone! There is so much information coming our way on social media on a daily basis about what’s good for you that it’s hard to sift through and make sense of it all. It’s hard to get a real sense of what the truth is.

Why do I care?

For one thing, as a mom I’m much more conscious of the food choices I make and I want to make sure my daughter is eating well. Aside from that, I recently started working in the agriculture sector. I’m not going to lie, prior to getting started in this business I knew very little about my food. True, I grew up in a rural area of Ottawa with semi-regular contact with farmers, so I was probably a little bit more connected to the industry than the average Canadian, but I certainly would not have called myself well-informed.

The entire industry to me was overwhelming, with information coming at me from all sides about what I should or shouldn’t put into my body. There wasn’t a day where I didn’t hear something on social media like ‘Don’t eat sugar, it’ll kill you’ or ‘Don’t eat GMO’s, don’t you know they cause cancer?’ or ‘Eat vegan! Eating meat is the new smoking’. Ever since starting my job in agriculture, I’ve been insatiably curious about all things related to food. What am I really eating anyway? The area that got me the most curious? GMOs.

What does GMO even mean? 

A GMO is a Genetically Modified Organism. In science speak that means a plant that has been developed with genetic engineering. Generally, that translates into taking a plant and adding, altering or taking something away to make it perform better. This can mean making it more drought resistant, unaffected by certain pests or decreasing the amount of fuel required to farm it, among other things. This page will tell you all you want to know about GMOs and more.

GMOs are

(Photo Credit: GMO Answers)

What’s all the fuss about?

Many of you have likely seen the movements: #RightToKnow, #nonGMO #antiGMO #GMOlabelling, etc. Some of you may even subscribe to these beliefs. #RightToKnow alone has a hashtag exposure per hour of 14,271, according to ritetag.com.

The question I have for you, which is the same thing I ask myself, is do I really know enough about what this is to make an informed decision to be for or against it? Chances are we don’t.

According to a CBC article, “consumers have little understanding about the science of what many dubbed “Frankenfood”. Often, it’s confused with goods that have had additives like preservatives or hormone injections”. This lack of understanding, in my opinion, is because we are so frequently being told on social media that GMOs are bad for us that we don’t take the time to decide if they actually are. If you follow food related content on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, you’ve likely heard that GMOs will cause learning disorders, cancer, heart disease, mental illness, diabetes and so much more. The group @healthy_facts_ makes many claims like this.

Bad GMOs

(Photo Credit: @healthy_facts_)

With all of this fear driven attention, how do we know what’s true and what’s not? If someone told me something would cause all of those problems, I’d probably want to avoid it too! But… by succumbing to the fear, we’re not getting all of the facts. For example, did you know that the insulin that is provided to those people suffering from diabetes, the very thing that GMOs are being accused of causing, is actually produced by means of genetic modification? The insulin, which was previously created by using the pancreas of animals is GMO and is now easier to produce and at a much faster rate. Would anyone really deny someone with diabetes access to insulin, simply because it’s GMO? And more importantly, can something that’s ‘so bad’ really be producing something that is actually saving lives? Check out more about GMO insulin here.

So what’s missing? 

In my opinion, it’s stories like the one above that we’re missing. Our attention is so focused on the scary side of things that we’re missing the facts and all of the positives that come from genetic modification. There are new movements on this front, such as #factsnotfear, #moms4GMOs, #Dads4GMOs and many more. There’s even a film out there that aims to push back against all of the fear-invoking claims online called ‘Food Evolution’. The film encourages viewers to #FeastOnFacts not fear. These campaigns are all trying to bring positive dialogue into what’s being done, but countering the large-scale social media campaign against GMOs will take time and more involvement from farmers, scientists, the food industry and supporters. Take into consideration the fact that the campaigns I mentioned above did not even rank on ritetag.com. In fact, they fell under the category of hashtags that you shouldn’t use because very few people are following them.

#moms4GMOs

(Photo credit: @IWF)

With that said, I think that a big part of the problem in spreading the word about the positives of GMO’s, is that the industry has been too focused on communicating the facts and science through traditional means. They instead need to focus on increasing their dialogue with the world on social media, which is where the fear-invoking side of this battle is being waged. As we know, social media provides us with a place to share our thoughts, whether they are based on science or not, and the science is not necessarily what people want to hear. People are moved by emotion, how something makes them feel. By causing your audience to be frightened, you’re doing a much better job of engaging them than you would be by bombarding them with science-based facts like: it takes a company from 7 to 10 years to bring a GMO to market, and during that time the product must undergo rigorous government testing.  It’s hard to connect to that. What I can connect to is that biotech products are actually doing good work for our environment. Did you know that GMOs actually help to reduce the environmental impact of farming and help to improve our air quality?

Where does this leave us?

According to the UN, the world’s population is expected to swell to 9.8 billion people by 2050. That means that we will need to come up with innovative ways to produce more food, on less land, to meet the rising global needs. Canadian farmers, as the 5th largest agricultural exporters globally, are stepping up in a big way to meet these challenges, while at the same time aiming to leave valuable green spaces untouched. This is the story that must be told on social media. It must be told in an engaging way to make sure that people understand both sides of the spectrum to really decide how they feel about it.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, especially on social media, but I just hope that we all do our best to form that opinion in the best way possible. Without the fear.

I’d love to hear what you think about this and to hear what your thoughts are on GMOs in general. Did you know what they were and how do you feel about them? Have you seen or interacted with any of the GMO campaigns?

twitter   Are you afraid of your food? Get ready to #FeastOnFacts! #FactsNotFear #GMO

facebookIs social media making you afraid of your food? You’re not alone. #Resist the fear and check out my latest blog! #FactsNotFear #GMO

#BellLetsTalk – Big business going social for a good cause?

#BellLetsTalk – Big business going social for a good cause?

In September 2010, Bell Let’s Talk started a new campaign about mental health in Canada. This initiative aimed to bring the conversation about this hidden illness out of the dark and into the forefront to help eliminate the stigma around it. Thousands of Canadians, including celebrities, began to open up about their experience with mental health, and the campaign to offer hope to those who battle with this illness began.

Now, after only 7 years, Bell Let’s Talk has raised over $86,000 for mental health treatment and awareness in Canadian communities (https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/). Interestingly, this campaign has also gone a long way because of its ability to engage communities through social media marketing. For example, @Bell_LetsTalk has over 153,000 followers and has posted over 6,000 tweets since starting their Twitter account in January 2011 (https://twitter.com/Bell_LetsTalk).

Bell Lets Talk

This campaign also goes a long way to show how major businesses are using social media marketing to engage with their communities and drive up business. Don’t get me wrong, the importance of targeting mental health and reducing the stigma around it has never been so important, but we also can’t deny that there is a certain business savvy in this as well. Not only is Bell’s name featured in their hashtag, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat filter and Facebook, but they also drive participants to get social on their communication mediums as well, including texts and regular phone calls.

Bell Lets Talk 2

That said, some are not impressed at the level that Bell is willing to go to promote a means of communication that some claim is increasing the prevalence of mental health issues to begin with (http://bit.ly/2fJPgo8). As in the blog referenced above, Kate Robertson states that “Researchers are… warning us that all of this binge-watching and Instagramming is making us unhappier”. So, if that’s true, is it poor form for Bell to promote isolation through getting social on our phones or computers instead of having ‘real life’ engagements? Even though I have no issue with this campaign and absolutely feel that raising awareness and funds for treatment is important, I would also like to see them spending time on cautioning Canadians about the potential harm that internet addiction and isolation could be causing.

I have no doubt that this campaign will continue to gain momentum over the next few years, especially as it becomes more the norm to discuss mental illness. Equally, I expect that Bell will continue to come up with new and innovative ways of engaging with their communities to drive this campaign forward. With all of these developments, what do you think of their campaign? Do you think, as I do, that even though there are some risks, it’s still better to call attention to an illness that cannot be seen?

twitter  @Bell_LetsTalk is getting social for mental health. Will you open up to big business for a good cause? #BellLetsTalk http://bit.ly/2fKDWs5

facebook  @BellCanada is asking us to get social to raise money and decrease the stigma around mental health.  Will you tweet, tag and chat with your nearest and dearest to promote a good cause? http://bit.ly/2fKDWs5