By Saad Meer
From humble beginnings to one of the most dominant forces in the world, social media has taken the world by storm. We now have access to peoples’ lives in ways unlike anything humanity has ever seen before. However, this has created privacy concerns, especially for those with celebrity or political status. Secrets and inappropriate actions of politicians have come forth sullying the image of many politicians.
In my opinion, politicians have lost the right to total private personal lives due to increased media coverage and a greater prevalence of social media. This does not mean they have to document every interaction or should be harassed for social media opportunities. This means that politicians have to accept that details of their private life such as a divorce or a reflection of their character could be exposed on social media.
While these are legitimate concerns, the benefits of social media outweigh the negatives. We live in such an interconnected world that even if an event such as a divorce is kept secret, people will find out. Despite safety concerns, measures can be taken to protect people. In addition, social media has helped us see politicians’ personalities, character, and given us a place to converse and discuss policies. The effects of this cannot be understated.
Social media has given us the chance to connect with our leaders like never before. Many politicians, for example Donald Trump, have boosted their popularity based on their ability to connect with the masses on a scale not possible through interviews or news articles. It has given a voice to those who feel powerless.
There is the thinking, however, that the private lives of politicians should stay separate from their social lives. Gary Hart is one of the most famous examples of someone whose private life ruined their political career. Politicians have families and can have their sense of well-being threatened when other people are prying into their lives. Another reason is simply that making one’s life social can lead to bullying and threats. There are aspects of private lives such as divorce that parties do not want publicized. Social media may end up releasing more details than the person is comfortable with.
However, the people we elect have great power and greater responsibility. This puts the onus on them to have good character and represent the interests of everyone and not just those rich enough to afford an audience with him/her. Just like the general public’s character is shown on social media, so can a politician’s. More information makes people more informed voters which is overall better for society.
In conclusion, while social media at times can feel very invasive for politicians, it is also one of their most powerful tools in connecting with audiences and getting their platform across. It is incredibly powerful in sharing messages, building support, and connecting people to each other. Social media will only get stronger. The successful politicians will be the ones who adapt and use this tool to their advantage.
Saad Meer is a student in a Media and Democracy class at St. Bonaventure University.