Using Social Media to Participate in a Democracy

The Next Big Focus In The Russia Investigations: Social Media- https://www.ideastream.org/news/the-next-big-focus-in-the-russia-investigations-social-media

Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

Our world is becoming increasingly more technology driven. While we understand that everyone does not have equal access to the same levels of technology one cannot deny the fact that much of teaching and learning today is driven by technology. Even as I write this article today we are under stay at home orders and are being compelled to practice social distancing in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic. This has caused households around the world to be forced into homeschooling. As I write this article I can hear my wife (My much better half) educating my second grader and my teenager on subjects ranging from Spanish to elementary language arts. In this way we must not fight technology but we must embrace it. We can think about how technology and social media in particular can impact our participation in our democracy and civic engagement. The National Council for the Social Studies has provided information in an article entitled Youth, Social Media and Digital Civic Engagement that students can use social media to effectively be involved in civics. Here some articles that can help explore how social media can be used to effectively practice civic engagement and get more involved in the democratic process.

More Resources on using the Social Media and Civics Engagement
Social Media: Driving or Diminishing Civic Engagement?
Public attitudes toward political engagement on social media
How Social Media has Transformed Politics and Redefined Civic Engagement
Social media increases civic engagement among users

Lesson Plans on Civic Engagement
Digital Literacy and Youth Civic Engagement
Creating Active Citizens: Ideas for Civic Engagement Lessons
Teaching Civic Engagement
Civic Engagement Lesson Plans
Making Civics Real: A Workshop for Teachers

5 Comments

  1. If you had asked me ten years ago how I felt about politics, I would have told you I wanted nothing to do with them and that I would rather talk about something else. This idea of avoiding politics and religion is derived from my parents and probably even their parents and I know that this is a truth for many people that I was raised around. I wouldn’t say I differ from this opinion much today, but the thing that has changed or is changing this topic for me though has definitely been social media and the ease of these platforms to be political. Even though it has been frustrating at times, seeing social media change this ideology for so many people has been a very beautiful thing.
    As Dr. Childs states, “We must not fight technology, we must embrace it,” and I find it to be so true. We must embrace technology, because the fact of the matter is that technology will always be a prevalent part of our lives whether we accept it or not. Since most, if not all people can accept this fact as truth, we need to look more into the development of technology to more effectively involve a greater number of people in politics. Remote voting, fact checking bots and political surveys are all ways in which we could incorporate technology into the political process, with so many more possibilities. It’s 2020 and time for us to clear our vision and use social media to help more people participate in democracy.

  2. This article caught me off guard for its optimism. Up to this point I have considered the trend towards Americans relying on Facebook as their primary news outlet to be an unquestioned bad. After looking through the supplementary links you’ve provided, I was interested by this statistic from the Pew Research Center: “In the past year, 34% of Americans have taken part in a group on social media that shares an interest in an issue or cause, while a similar share (32%) says they have encouraged others to take action on an issue that is important to them.” (“Public attitudes toward political engagement on social media”). I tend not to think of social media as a tool for meaningful exchanges between people; websites like Facebook or Twitter have always seemed to me like a warped entertainment venue rather than a genuine communication medium. Whether it’s the purposefully disorganized, infinitely scrolling website design, blatant and repetitive product advertisements, awkward parasocial interactions with celebrity accounts who have certainly hired staff to post and comment in their stead, constant pressures to share an increasing list of private information with a web company in exchange for its services, or the barrage of overly personal text monologues that acquaintances post at all hours of the night, I can’t put my finger on what precisely gives me such an aversion. But these figures do challenge my biases. I really hadn’t considered the possibility for social media to be used in a positive way, for civic engagement and supporting the expression of a diverse range of opinions. Just because I am utilizing a powerful tool for civic engagement to share cat pictures with my friend in the next town over and argue with someone I went to high school with, does not mean that this is the only way to use the platform. It’s actually really cool that somewhere around 30% of Americans, that might not have had the opportunity to get involved in a cause they care about otherwise, have taken the initiative to get involved over social media. That is great news.

  3. My girlfriend is a teacher at an elementary school, and without social media and technology it would have been even harder for her students and their families to participate in the require “NTI” assignments that were given due to the closing from the pandemic. I myself am not a fan of social media, however after seeing firsthand how social media has been a huge positive source to people during this time my opinions have changed on it a bit. My niece and nephew love watching videos that the Cincinnati Zoo Facebook page post and can now list an insane amount of animal facts due to them. As you said regarding Dr. Child’s wife now homeschooling their children, we must not fight technology but embrace it. Even before the pandemic began it was a tool that became used a lot, but especially now. As I said there are so many educational resources online and I am sure most of the country now knows how to “ZOOM.” Due to more people becoming accustomed to using the internet and social media, now is a great time to start encouraging people to become more involved in civic engagement just as Dr. Child’s said.

  4. While reading “Using Social Media to Participate in a Democracy” I found it interesting how not all of society can access the same level of technology as others can. Technology has played a huge role in everyones day to day lifestyle. I know for me personally I could not live without my phone and computer. I think to myself, “what would I do with these things?” I can’t imagine going to school without my computer. I heavily rely on internet to not only look at social media but to complete and turn in school assignments. I feel as social media plays a huge role in everyones life today. Not only do teenagers love it but democracy has outlets to post campaigns and other information for others to read.

  5. In an era where people can access whatever information they need in seconds, technology has become essential. In a society struck by Covid 19 technology has become a necessity. Dr. Childs makes a good point that technology is and should be engrained into our education. It is a useful tool that students can use to become more educated and society can use to grow and improve. However, I pose two questions: How can we make sure everyone has an equal opportunity? How can we make sure technology is used as a tool, not a weapon?
    First, let us consider if technology will prevent everyone from having an equal opportunity. A lot of private, high tuition schools have begun incorporating technology into their curriculum. This is great.. for those students. When the school buys technology, tuition goes up. When tuition goes up some can’t afford it and others who never could now have no hope? What about them? In a world increasingly dependent on technology what do you do with kids who can’t afford schools with new technology and have no access to technology at home. As we incorporate technology into our society we need to make sure we do it in a way that provides support and growth for all, and doesn’t separate the poor from the rich.
    Second, we need to make sure people use technology as a tool and not a weapon. Now that you can say things anonymously online, it is easier than ever to hurt someone, bully someone, or abuse someone online. Before we advance with our integration of technology into society we need to be sure that society is ready for this responsibility. I propose classes on internet etiquette, tutorials for how to use the internet on all new computers, and more classes geared towards teaching understanding and acceptance.
    With the right tools and preparation, as well as precautions, I think technology (especially moving forward after Covid 19) can radically change the country and the world.

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