Taking a glance at the recent past, observing The Arab Spring in 2011 as well as the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns, we may see an increase in how social media can affect citizens as it considers the issue of participation in political life. Nowadays Social media have become a very important part of every day public life and communication. The rapid development of social media has caused major changes including remarkable transformation in the way people join groups of individuals looking not only for common interests but more than ever for different interests and thoughts that might open for them a totally new window. Changes have been also noticed in the nature of information, the quantity and the quality of the information the users are searching for and of course the pool of sources that are available any time. It is of great importance that the 2008 USA presidential elections including the win of Obama, passed in history for the surprising and unprecedented use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube as an effort to get closer to young people and make them more familiar with the procedure of elections and more willing to participate. This innovative use of digital media and the power of the online world that started with the presidential campaign in 2008 was also continued and even amplified in the 2012 presidential campaign, when both Obama and Romney spent a considerable amount of money on social media. During these elections, social networking sites were used by young followers of Obama, to persuade their peers to vote. Due to the fact that a significant increase in voter turnout, compared to 2004, was registered we can now reach a conclusion that participation in election procedure and in the life of the society in general is more than related and connected with the use of new media. Since then Social networking sites and platforms of every kind have been used to mobilise public to protest for various reasons all over the world. As a result of all the above we can now see the rise of social media use for political information, mainly by creating user-generated content and expressing political views. Also after those results many politicians and organisations in many European countries realised the value of using and developing content for online media and incorporated it into their communication strategies. Through social networking sites, political organisations and candidates today have not only the possibility to directly communicate with their publics, but also to interact with them (two-way communication). In turn, through social networking platforms, voters are given a place to share their opinions and to be heard. We can not be sure if the power of digital social media is good or bad but as every super-power it depends on who is using it. At least we can try!
Leeson, P.T (2008) “Media Freedom, Political Knowledge and Participation”, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Volume 22, Issu 2, p. 155-169
Kenski , K. and Stroud, N.J. (2006) ”Connections Between Internet Use and Political Efficacy, Knowledge, and Participation” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 50(2), (2006) 173-192