The numbers are pretty staggering. In terms of where Millennials get their political news, the top source, bar none, is Facebook. For Generation X, the gap is closer, but Facebook still leads. For the Baby Boomer generation, Local TV is the most utilized source, and Facebook is at a mere 39%, but that is still a pretty impressive number.
It doesn’t take a genius to extrapolate a trend here: Younger generations are becoming increasingly reliant on social media in order to get their political news. This has some fascinating and powerful implications for media, politicians and democracy. From the politician perspective, however, your course of action is clear: YOU MUST USE FACEBOOK, and social media in general, if you want to have an opportunity to influence the general public and keep your constituents informed about your actions.
I, like every other elected official, have been frustrated with the media at points. It’s bound to happen: they misquote you or put an unfair slant on a story (well, unfair in my mind, anyway). This is natural, and part of the tension that should exist between the media and government. Facebook provides an opportunity for elected officials to connect directly with our constituents, without the media gatekeepers, and our constituents are clearly taking advantage of that opportunity.
Putting on a different hat – that of concerned citizen – this is a little frightening. Sure, politicians can connect directly with the public, and citizens can connect directly with their elected officials, but they are then only getting one side of the story. Of course journalists and reporters will have their biases and make mistakes, but the vast, vast majority of the time, they get it right, and they shine a light in areas of government that need darkness expunged. If media continues to decline, we lose those warriors of democracy, and I don’t think that’s good for anyone.
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