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Social Media & Celebrity Politics

Politics has been extremely prevalent in 2016, with the Australian election, the UK ‘Brexit’ and the impending American election. The American’s who are so loud, and even vulgar, in their battle, seem to flourish in the lime light more than anyone else, especially the big guy (yes you guessed it Trump).

What is interesting, is a shift in dynamic, with social media presenting a third media platform to circulate a different political context that includes behind the scene images, tweets, it provides a space for politicians to further showcase their humanity (Ekman & Widholm, 2014, p. 519).

Politicians physically address hundreds and thousands of people by taking the stage, this performance is driven through traditional news media, in addition society now connects on a separate level – the digital arena consisting of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Often in real-time messages on Twitter for example politics are rarely mentioned, the simple essence of celebrity and the sharing personal moments to encourage the feeling of knowing somebody who you have never met is a phenomenon (Ekman & Widholm 2014, p. 519).

Of course, it is not new for policitians to promote personally promote themselves through traditional media, however the ‘meta-process of life-style’ is accelerated by social media (Ekman & Widholm 2014, p. 519). Real time comments and therefore inclusion on what is happening, the essence of not missing out is engrossing society, for example The Age of the Selfie, as per Hillary’s image below.

Hilary selfie 2

Photo credit: Barbera Kinney for Hillary for America

As Ekman and Widholm (2014, p. 520) assert Twitter enhances narcissistic tendencies whereby communication in the political arena becomes the promotion of personalised identities friendly branding. A significant question is, who is the driving force behind this phenomenon?

Social is social, tweets, likes, red hearts are driven by us, voters, consumers, students and parents. People love people. We then, appear to be the driving force behind celebrity, we want to be fed behind the scene snippets and personalised information.

However, the direction of relations between politicians and journalists through the rise in social media has been significantly challenged, we now have political actors who can communicate on their own terms, journalists no longer have the ‘monopoly over public information’ (Ekman & Widholm, 2015, p. 80)

Present day politics involves a ‘mediatized interdependency’ between journalists and politicians whereby they need one another to get their job done (Ekman & Widholm, 2015, p. 81). It will be interesting to further watch their relationship unfold further, and to consider, do politicians now have even more power?

The initiation of government blogs shifts away from traditional journalistic media, the White House Blog for example promotes policies and campaigns prolifically, all of which are presented in a positive light.

The White House Blog

Consequently, are we now subject to an abundance of news and information that is not challenged, and is potentially biased through the various platforms of social media we operate from?

The implications are clear, celebrity and social media is a driving force changing the structural political landscape through citizen relations (Ekman & Widholm 2014, p. 520). Next time we see Trump making his wild statements whilst scrolling through our news feed, realise he is there because we want him there! Crazy, I know.

References: 

Ekman, M & Widholm, A 2015, ‘Politicians as media producers, current trajectories in the relation between journalists and politicians in the age of social media’, Journalism Practice, vol. 9, no.1, pp. 78-91.

Ekman, M & Widholm, A 2014, ‘Twitter and the celebritisation of politics’, Celebrity studies, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 518-520.

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