Today is the day of Police and Crime Commissioner elections, local council elections, and elections for the London mayor. Next month will see the EU Referendum, where the UK will decide whether to remain part of the European Union or become independent from it. A year ago, on the day of the General Election, I wrote a post on my blog entitled ‘Facebook and political campaigning’, which was a very in the moment response to the amount of friends who were posting about their political affiliations on social media. However, in the last few months I have been heavily involved in campaigns for student elections, where much of the campaigning is online. How far have I contradicted my own words from last year?
“Political campaigning has no place on social media, unless it is for the purpose of encouraging the act of voting” – I was vaguely part of two campaign teams during the Students’ Union officer and media head elections, strongly sharing my support for the candidates I believed to be the best on Facebook. I did this via text posts, in which I also explained the reasons why I had chosen to back that candidate, and added profile pictures and cover photos which showed who I supported. I also aimed to encourage people to do their own research and vote in elections which they may otherwise have not have known about (in the case of the media head elections particularly). There’s no doubt that my words last year have become hypocritical, but the SU elections are a particularly grey area. There was no physical campaigning for the media head candidates, leading the campaigns to be solely based online and via word of mouth. My investment in the media outlets on campus meant that I was very keen to get my favoured candidates elected and so I was active on social media, but had this been a national election I would not have been as vocal on social media.
“I am becoming increasingly irate at the multiple posts from people blatantly promoting their political affiliations” – This is very true. I don’t want to see a news feed full of Vote Labour/Vote Conservative/Vote Green etc. posts! They get aggressive and that is not encouraging for anyone else to read who holds different political views. In local and general elections the opportunity arises for physical campaigning and I feel that this is the better way to gain support from the electorate. In fact, even during the SU elections I found it more helpful to see manifestos in paper form than online. Actual political party affiliations are best kept outside of social media.
“By all means use your right to vote, in fact I implore you to do so” – If this is the only thing you take in from this post, please take the opportunity today to vote in whatever elections are going on around you! People died so that a wide spectrum of the population can have a say in who represents them in government. Whether it’s a Police and Crime Commissioner, a Borough Councillor or the London Mayor, please take the opportunity to vote.
Although I may have not listened to my own words, please take care on your usage of social media around the election season. Be open to those with other political views and make sure that the idea of voting is at the forefront of any campaigning you do.