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October 2, 2011, 9:08 am UTC
Eyeing the elections next year, President Barack Obama is doing his best to woo young voters by being on social media
Social Media seems to be inspiring a revolution of sorts in the power structures of the world. The usually closed world of the powerful is suddenly opening up via social media. Last week it was the UN which held a kind of live chat with its ‘people’ and now it’s the turn of President Barrack Obama to test social media waters.
In April, the American President had visited the headquarters of Facebook to talk about the economy while in June he hosted a virtual town hall using Twitter. And now, he is targeting the social networking portal for serious professionals, LinkedIn where the President is holding another town hall on the 26th of September, this time to discuss job creation with the masses.
In terms of representing the masses which leaders should do, and taking pointers from them which in an ideal democracy they would do anyways, most governments of the worlds have failed, choosing instead to insulate themselves from the masses and deciding the fate of the people sitting atop ivory towers. The problem was perhaps legitimate and logistical. Even if some politician did want to connect to his masses, how was he supposed to do so without literally creating a stampede? In this department, social media provides a perfect platform.
Social media not only allows the possibility of participation from a large and varied cross section of the society, in any discussion it also allows a degree of control from the side of the receiver, in this case the White House. For busy people and leaders, this flexibility becomes a source of comfort for them as they confront their public. Any untoward situation can be averted easily beforehand.
It is obvious that LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner was excited. He wrote on his blog, the event “is an invitation from the White House to people from across the country for an open exchange on of our most pressing objectives as a nation: the creation of jobs and economic opportunity.”
Even in the world of Twitter, one of the most followed accounts is that of the White House with 2.4 million followers. According to analysts, this is an attempt by the President to reach out to a large cross section of the young audience with whom it is cool to stay disconnected with traditional media and instead get news and first hand information from social media. And it is a large audience base indeed.
The question that begs to be asked is whether it is a genuine effort by the White House and Obama to know the grievances of the public, or a mere eye wash or even an attempt to seem reaching out to the audiences in order to get their votes come election time next year. As such the American economy is in tatters and there’s growing angst in the masses about the state of affairs and this measure will go a long way in winning Obama at least the vote for popularity for the time being.
This, of course, does give one another idea. Maybe the next presidential debate should last a day, and be on social media with three feeds of three presidential candidates, answering the same question posed at the same time to the leaders with each answers compared by analysts once the ‘social media debate’ was over. Things could then be discussed more extensively and a large section of the society can directly take part in democracy, rather than an indirect participation by the means of his or her vote.
For President Obama, it helps that compared to most past presidents, and even current politicians he is young and hence is more clued in to what’s happening in terms of technology. Whether that makes any impact on his reelection, or whether social media will indeed eat into traditional media in other interesting ways, remains to be seen.
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