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

20 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.

  6. Growing up in this digital age, I have definitely benefited from online civic engagement. I grew up in a Catholic and white school, surrounded by white neighbors, watching white people on TV and white people in leadership positions. Therefore, I was only introduced to discussions and problems faced by people in this demographic. When I went to a public high school, I was introduced to civic topics that involved diversity. I didn’t understand, so I remember researching online about how to talk with my friends about civic topics. They would send me articles that broadened my knowledge about politics and my own rights. I think this is a great way to embrace technology and the free nature of social media platforms, which allows many to take a bigger part in our democracy. I am always pleased to see my friends posting about the fact that they voted on election day, which encourages me to vote.

  7. Social media has played a major role in society today. When people want to be heard or seen the first place they go to is social media. Social media has given people a voice and share their struggles with others as well who may face the same thing. Not only is social media a good platform from all that injustice and other things going on, but technology in general has become upgraded. You can learn so much through technology which can be very educational to many.

  8. Technology has become one of the most important things in our world; it’s a form of communication, work, socializing, entertainment, etc. During COVID-19 our world has had to adapt even more to rely on technology. Because of this we have entered a stage where we are embracing technology rather than trying to deny its importance. We seen social media and technology used as platforms now for social injustices. For example, going to Instagram to show support for black lives matters by promoting different organizations, to educating ourselves by reaching out to the black community and talking. As future teachers we need to learn to incorporate technology so that we can enable our students to learn to use it in a way that is beneficial to their growth as a student and citizen.

  9. I love that social media has given access to people that use it to educate themselves and stay up to date on whats going on in the world. Like my mom, she uses it to stay in touch with family members that live out of town, which is another great advantage now of our technologically advanced society and social media era. But when it comes to posting anything that can cause harm to someone else that is how extremely dangerous social media can be. I believe that the advantages of our technology driven society far outweigh its disadvantages. I think that a lot more people are able to stay connected and get involved because of technology. My house has leaned hard on technology recently for homeschooling. I agree with Dr. Childs, we must embrace technology and use it for good.

  10. I think that Social Media is a great tool to participate in political engagement, as long as we always consider the source. If you see your liberal or conservative friends post something that seems way off, but still captured your attention, you could always do further research.

    A recent news article I read was that TikTok users had gone online to order thousands of free tickets to Trump’s rally in Tulsa, but they had no intention of showing up. They merely wanted Donald Trump to stand in front of an empty stadium. It seemed to have worked, because thousands of people were turned away at the gates in Tulsa, because they didn’t have tickets while the ticket holders across the country were enjoying this embarrassing event from their couch and over half the stadium was empty. (The Trump people say the low turnout was due to COVID-19, but they are looking into changing the way tickets are requested next time.) If this did happen, it was definitely not ethical, but I thought this was a perfect example of how people use social media to participate and let their opinions be known.

  11. Social media most certainly can serve as a beneficial tool for civic engagement. As I was not permitted to vote in the 2016 election due to being underage, I have taken the time to ensure I am registered to vote in every election possible(party depending). I, personally, can attest that without social media platforms I likely would not have taken the steps to simply register to vote. The way that technology makes exercising our rights as citizens convenient nearly ensures participation in our democracy as young people.

  12. This article by Dr. Childs about technology was very well said. I feel like we never acknowledge that our world would be lost with technology. But, we also never acknowledge that it does so much harm in our world. I love the personal connection he used in speaking about his wife and children using it for homeschooling. Technology is so abundant now we even use it for learning and jobs! I think it is worth learning about and knowing that other places and people do not have this same opportunity as us. Imagine never being able to use the Internet. This article speaks to racism and classism in several invisible ways as well. We all have different opportunities that define our culture, how we live, and how we are treated.

  13. Of course not all society has the same amount of access when it comes to technology. The world we have evolved into today almost requires everyone to have access to technology. Yes I agree with the article on how important technology is within today’s society and how we must learn to access it. Democracy can use the internet to get their word out there and to post the things needed to become relevant. I do think this is always going to be unfair due to the kids located within poverty. Some students are not going to have access to technology like others and that’s where a solution to this needs to be funded. Every child no matter the cards they are dealt deserves an equal chance to become successful. Let’s allow technology to change the world for the good… not ruin it.

  14. When I first began college, 4 years ago, I would not have imagined a time where student learning has gone virtual. Technology is a crucial part to today’s society. Using the resources that we have at our fingertips to educate ourselves is beyond important. As a future educator, ensuring that I am providing my students with resources that allow them to educate themselves is something that must be focused on. The resources in this article are a great way for me to start educating myself on different resources that can be used to education the future generations.

  15. I agree that people shouldn’t be fighting back against the increased presence of social media in our daily lives. While I understand that many people may be wary of social media (especially given how relatively recently it has been introduced into our society), I believe that the benefits of using it outweigh many of the negatives that it brings. Social media also allows the general populace to be much more informed in our political processes like never before, as well as participate in discussions surrounding them.

  16. While it is absolutely true that not all individuals have the same access to technology in America much less the rest of the world, it is apparent just how integral it has become in our societies. One cannot function in much of societies without your smartphone. It is a calculator, a computer, a means of global communication, and if used correctly an ally in understanding the world around you. Using tools like these to find out simple things in the world can be a tremendous boon. Especially in the modern political climate with so much disinformation floating around, it is imperative that we embrace every educational tool we have and train students going forward to use it properly in defense of their education.

  17. I feel that I can understand all the sides of feelings on technology. I understand with circumstances that virtual everything is ideal. I understand all of that. But to me virtual is just not the same as in person. I feel as though there are things to learn from all of it in many ways. Yes we need to accept it and yes we need to get used to it. But all in all it is just not the same. It is not the solution for life.

  18. Although some people don’t have the same access to technology as others, it is still continuing to grow beyond what many people would have thought. With it growing so much, it is almost become essential to have some sort of technology available to you, whether than be a smartphone, laptop or home computer. Especially since the pandemic hit, technology has become essential from most people, especially students who are now forced into virtual schooling. With this rise of technology, social media activity is rising. It is important that with that rise in activity, that rise is being used for civic and political engagement as well–doing it in a just and respectful way.

  19. I agree that the world is becoming increasingly more technology driven. We tend to rely on technology for everything in our everyday lives. We use our cars which are a lot different now than when they first came out thanks to technology. We use our phones, computers, and tablets for work, school, taking notes, shopping, communicating, we use them for just about everything. I don’t necessarily consider the use of technology a bad thing however, the way people use technology can be a bad thing. We go to social media and people can be very negative, but it can also be a great way for people to communicate and learn about social situations that are going on in the world. Technology is not going away so we must embrace it and learn from it.

  20. I have been lucky enough to grow up when technology was really advancing and I was able to use computers in elementary school, cell phones in middle school, and iPad in high school. These technologies have made schooling a lot easier and cooler. In our world today, students are using their technology to do school online. On the other hand, I use technology mainly for social media. It’s something for me to do and I really enjoy just going through Tik Tok or Instagram. One thing that it really crazy for me to think is that I get a lot of my news from social media. I usually check Twitter every morning for their highlights and they give multiple articles on a topic. The beauty about this is, you can easily comment on these news sources and a ton of people can see it. I think we should educate our children on how to use social media in a different way than entertainment.

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