Social media

Social media is reshaping political campaigns – Manila Bulletin


Dr. Jun Ynares

The official campaign period for elective national positions in the May 2022 elections is now nearly two weeks old. The official campaign period for elected positions at the local level will begin in just over a month.

Since the political pot began to heat up, it has become clear that in this particular election, social media is the propaganda battleground. This is what candidates will use the most to win liberal/independent votes. This is where ideas will clash, platforms will be compared, and the character of contestants will be judged.

In the 2022 election, social media has emerged as the undisputed king.

There is an advantage and a disadvantage to this development.

Let’s talk about the positive side.

First, social media has raised the level of public participation in political debate to unprecedented heights.

Second, it subjected applicants to more rigorous scrutiny.

Third, it empowered free market/independent voters.

Fourth, the generation of Filipinos between their late twenties and early thirties – young people who know the mechanics and power of social media like the back of their hand – could become the “kingmaker” of this election.

Things were different about 60 years ago, say some of our elders in Rizal.

According to them, in the 1950s to the 1960s, the most powerful means of political campaigning were the “entablado” and the radio.

During those days, people flocked to the many political “mitings” that took place from early evening until the wee hours of dawn to see their candidates and hear them deliver “bombastic” speeches on the future and the promise that the nation can become great again.

Radio was where contestants poured most of their advertising dollars. It was the era of country jingles that sounded like margarine commercials or a song-and-dance number in a vaudeville. Our elders remember those times as “fun”.

Then came the reign of television. In the 1990s and early 2000s, it was the medium campaign teams poured most of their advertising dollars into. The cost of campaign advertising has reached unprecedented levels. It costs contestants an arm and a leg to get a 30-second linebacker on ultra-popular midday TV shows.

Campaign strategies were then devised by “veterans”, usually experts in the field of marketing and public relations who were exploited by the candidates to “package” them and give their campaign directions.

This year, the “veterans” could give way to the young – the so-called “digital natives” – who can create a social media post, a TikTok video, an Instagram material, all in minutes. They can make them go viral in less than an hour.

In a way, these young people who rule the social networks have brought the candidates closer to the electorate – for better control. They have turned social media into a hot seat, a frying pan and a cruel medium where every word, every eyebrow and every antics of the candidate are interpreted as indicators of the quality of his character.

Social media has given free market/independent voters a strong voice. They are now actively questioning the past and present of candidates, their alliances and allegiances, their campaign agenda or lack thereof. Thanks to social networks, independent voters now address candidates directly. They make known what they think without filters or editorial barriers.

Social media has turned many people into highly engaged voters. Many spend time on social media defending their candidates, attacking their candidates’ rivals, or simply telling the world who they are voting for.

In a way, social media “polarized” the voting public early on. We have heard many stories of friends breaking up and parents disowning each other due to opposing political views and affiliations. The rise in animosity comes at a time when “bashing” has become a buzzword and “unfriending” on Facebook has become a trend.

When we say the political pot has “started to boil” or politics in the Philippines has “started to heat up”, we may be referring to what is happening on social media.

That heat is fueled by free market/independent voters, many of whom are young.

Social networks are on fire. It’s good for democracy. This is the power of voters.

*For feedback, please email it to [email protected] or send it to Block 6 Lot 10 Sta. Barbara 1 horn. Bradley St., Mission Hills Subd., Brgy. San Roque, town of Antipolo, Rizal.