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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Column: The social media election

Stephanie Hiquiana

Nov. 9, 2012

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

When I walked out of the Hampton Inn on Tuesday, I felt a small sense of empowerment. I had just voted in my first presidential election.

As I clutched my long-sought-after “I voted” sticker, I thought about how great it was that I got to go to the polling place and cast my vote in a makeshift booth along with other voting citizens.

As I filled in the circles next to my vote, it felt sort of like taking a test; like in elementary school when we would take tests and stand up folders to hide our answers from our peers’ wandering eyes. Whatever we wrote down on that piece of paper was private, both to keep other students from cheating and for us to feel comfortable in the answers we chose.

Similarly, those flimsy pieces of cardboard they built on the tables were to keep your vote private. There is no right or wrong answer, but your vote was meant to be your private decision.

Though with all the social media we have today, the whole idea of a private vote seems to have been thrown out the window. Between networking tools like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, elections have become much different than what the generations before us experienced.

Throughout Tuesday, Instagram was flooded with people proudly sporting their “I voted” stickers. I thought that was great. There were tons of young voters participating in some really important politics.

Within the last few weeks, it seems that Twitter and Facebook have been filled with political views; not just the typical and expected “get out and vote!” campaign, but instead, people with harsh language, accusatory words and judgmental assumptions about the candidates and their supporters.

While we are all entitled to our own opinion and the freedoms of speech and expression, we completely abused those rights — both in the weeks leading up to the election and after it. Many people disregarded their morals and any sort of social etiquette in the bold statements they made on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Back before Twitter, Facebook, and even Myspace in 2004, there were no social networking sites for voters to sit behind and blab about their political opinions. People listened to the news, read the newspaper, maybe discussed it with some friends or family and then went to the polls to cast their personal vote.

If you had something you wanted some 300 people to hear, you would literally have to get on a soapbox and start talking. Today, we have the ability to carefully type up our thoughts at any given point in time for all our followers to read.

While the polls create those private cubicles for us to vote in, their purpose is obliterated when people go around tweeting #teamobama or #teamromney.

According to CNBC, Election Day has been the most tweeted about event in history. Obama’s tweet after being re-elected, saying “Four more years,” is the most retweeted tweet ever. As of Tuesday night, it was retweeted 412,743 times.

It’s not bad that we utilize the technology and social networks we have today, but it is what separates us from past generations and elections.

According to my Twitter timeline, we’re all sick of hearing about political business at this point. Personally, I’m not sick of it just yet. I actually care about the state our nation will be in when I graduate from MU and have to live in the dreaded “real world.”

The politics that govern our country are not something we should simply tweet about or write a three-inch Facebook status about every four years just to show we care. If you really care, you would be engaged in the political discussion even after the excitement of the presidential election.

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