Social Media and Democracy

Following the declaration of Donald Trump as the winner of the 2016 election, the media has faced increased attacks for its failure to predict the outcome. The role of Facebook and other social media in advancing or curtailing democracy is under immense scrutiny following the unfolding of the events (Ingram, 2016). The newsfeed of most of the social media sites remain a big source of information to the users with more than 60% of Facebook users relying on the information from the site to form their opinions. The problem with this development is that it expose4s users to unverified information that is in most cases considered as fake. The 2016 election is not the only sign of the disservice that social media news feeds presents to the concept of democracy.

Over the recent past, the role of social media in articulating political issues has increased tenfold. Indeed, the platform of social media has rewired the civil society in unprecedented ways resulting in the advancement of collective action. Today, the concept of democracy is not only exercised at the ballot box but remains evident in the social media news feeds. Consequently, users of social media sites are continually exposed to rumors and unverified reports regarding democracy (Price, 2013). The powers of the internet and the social media in communicating and setting political agenda cannot however be underestimated. The news feeds of popular social sites such as Facebook have the power to shape debate and allow for bottom-up agenda setting. In the end, the civil society is presented with an opportunity to inquire, speak and investigate without the need for an external media outlet.

Despite the advantages of social media in shaping political opinions, its powers can be very negative when unchecked (Cruickshank, 2014). The referendum and general election in Britain and the US respectively have confirmed fears that social media news feeds have a negative implication on democracy. The people have lost touch with the politics that define and shape their normal lives resulting in negative implications on democracy. The social media platform presents the people with an avenue to air out their complaints whenever they feel that their representatives are not serving their interests. Essentially, people are bound to search for other people with similar complaints where they deliberate on the issue at hand. The results of such deliberations result in the transformation of these complaints into movements that can agitate for changes in the handling of political affairs. The limitation of such powers is evidenced when the issues addressed in social media news feeds have little concern for the democratic development of the people. Such was the case with the two examples cited above.

In today’s world, anyone with a smart phone can be a publisher, reporter or even editor breaking news to thousands of social media users in real time. However, the fact that this information is shareable amongst other users only means that one shares their information with people of similar opinions. The tragedy then becomes that the filtered news feeds exposes the users to news relating to items that are of similar interest. Consequently, one is exposed to content that they are likely to love including political issues (Cruickshank, 2014). The selection of items selected on ones newsfeeds is dependent on a number of features including the number of times that one likes their posts. Ultimately, the concept that suffers the most is democracy as more people are limited in the issues that are displayed on their news feeds.



Ingram, M. (2016). President Donald Trump vs. the Media Will Be an Epic Battle. Retrieved November 13, 2016, from

Cruickshank, J. (2014). What’s the big threat to democracy? Distraction | Toronto Star. Retrieved November 13, 2016, from

Price, E. (2013). Social media and democracy. Australian Journal of Political Science, 48(4), 519-527.



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