Technology and Politics
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In this modern day and age, technology has become a major influence in our life. In the past decade, we have had a significant amount of technological advances in society that revolves around all aspects of society. Specifically, technology has allowed for ways for individuals to advertise information and express their personal opinions. With advances like cable television, having dozens of different news outlets, and another advance, the Internet, it has become very easy to broadcast bias, stereotypes, and personal opinion internationally. Are these social outlets necessarily accurate? Do these Internet sites affect the political opinions of our nations youth? The Internet creates a negative influence on the political lives of young voters because it is detrimental to the development of young informed voters.
The Internet is a vast, open network where users create and share media such as videos and pictures, information, personal opinions, and ideas publically for others to speculate on. Examples of these sites are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, and various blogging pages where online media can be accessed 24/7. Statistically, within the age group of 18-24 around 98% of these young adults are already using social media. Also, there is an average of 70 billion new pieces of content shared on Facebook each month and an incredible 2.9 billion hours spent watching videos uploaded to YouTube. In the United States alone, the average amount of time spent on the Internet is 7.6 hours per month (Social Networking Statistics).
Social media outlets and common search engines are, for the most part, being used by the youth of the world and it has unlimited amounts of information that they can access. Many of these sites, however, have tainted information, and quickly turn fact into personal opinion. Because these sites are accessible by anyone, the information that is being advertised can be edited by anyone, which allows for tainted information and misinformed audiences. These sites are treated as an accurate resource and are used by young voters to voice their opinions. However, what might be deemed accurate political information has potential to be outright bias information. This limits the amount of true information that young voters can access creating the potential to be a less informed voter.
The reliability of the Internet is a controversial issue and it is that reason that one cannot trust everything they read on it. Many users of the Internet might conclude that online information, whether it is streamed through social media, search engines, blogs, or ads is in abundance. This allows for a variety of opinion and accurate information for the user to access. Major sites such as: Google, Twitter, or YouTube, can be used by typing in any term and instantly receiving thousands of pages full of information on any possible topic imaginable. With an asset as efficient as Internet resources, which gather information with ease, it would seem as if they allow young voters to become accurately informed voters; however, this is not true. Many users who rely on these sites for their political needs will come across information that is an open source to the public. The sites viewable by the public allow anyone to access them, however, just because they are accessible does not mean that the information is correct.
Major online sites such as Google, Wikipedia, WikiAnswers, Answers.com, YouTube, Facebook Pages and Twitter actually confine users to information that they are comfortable with and already know, even if it is not politically accurate. This limits young voters to information that will not allow them to make educated decisions or become an informed citizen. Many of the these outlets mentioned earlier tend to mold to your perception of what is common knowledge to the viewer. For example, while watching videos, YouTube makes note of the videos you are viewing and based off this information the site will recommend videos that fit your profile. When watching a pro Obama campaign media outlet on YouTube, there are many other aspects that relate to promoting the Democratic Party and their values. As seen on this specific video (President Clinton Explains Mitt Romney’s $5 Trillion Tax Cut), there is a small link that takes you directly to Obama’s official YouTube page, as well as a significant amount of videos relating to the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign.
Another point to take away from this video is that former Democratic president Bill Clinton, is slandering current Republican candidate Mitt Romney, and not relating to the current Democratic candidate Barack Obama at all. It is also apparent that there is no hint of right wing media on this YouTube page. This doesn’t allow the young voter the ability to see both sides of this political argument, but rather inhibits him in his political opinions. As a result, this media outlet limits all 682,000 viewers who have watched this video from being informed voters in a vast democracy. Another example of Internet sites limiting political viewpoints is the personalization of the Google search engine. Google and other major companies have tendencies to doctor search results to mold to individual ideas. Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, stated in an academic debate aired on NPR that, “these companies aren’t blind to the phycology… they have read all of the studies that show that when you present people with information that confirms what they already believe was true, you can actually see burst of pleasure in peoples brains.”
With these psychological studies readily available to them, it would only seem natural for big corporate companies to doctor the search engines to fit your beliefs; in most cases, they do. Pariser goes a step further claiming that “there has been a study, the only peer review study that I am aware of, on Google search results and the affects of personalization that shows that 60% of the search results on the front page are usually personalized”(NPR: Intelligence Squared “Is The Internet Closing Our Minds Politically?”). For example a young voter, whose recent search history leans towards right wing ideology, searches about the 2012 political campaigns. Statistically, around 60% of their first page on their Google search will relate to right wing ideology and pro Romney campaign advertising. This online search engine generally limits the average young voter to information that they are comfortable with and already believe, reassuring them that their political beliefs are correct, creating huge biases against the other party. This allows for further isolation from a well-rounded understanding of modern day politics and opposing political ideals, usually negatively affecting the political awareness of young voters.
Being an informed and aware voter is essential to the United States because as a democratic nation the public has immense power when it comes to political elections. Understanding current political issues and elections are an essential part of being an American citizen. Through staying informed, you are allowing yourself the opportunity to form your own opinions and understand what politicians stand for. This way when it comes to voting as an individual, you are more politically aware of who to vote for and who will actually meet the needs that you as an individual deem important. It might seem like a laborious task, however, in the United States the public has a say in who remains in offices of power and how they will direct our nation politically. Legislation affects all of us as individuals so it only seems necessary to become more aware of the political society that surrounds us.
Jason Zinser, professor at University of North Florida, claimed in his academic essay, “The Good, The Bad, and The Daily Show” that, “an informed public is the grease that keeps democracy running properly. Although foreign and domestic issues aren’t settled by popular vote, an informed public wields great democratic power”(364, Gerald Graff, et. al). It is necessary for younger voters to explore all aspects of political debate to create their own ideas. Without their own educated opinion, they will most likely not be able to reflect an informed voter. Technology, specifically major online sites, limits young voters abilities to become informed political individuals. It seems necessary for young voters to have an open mind when it comes to politics, expressing likes and dislikes, and creating their own personal beliefs so that they then can make informed decisions that will affect the nations future. However, the ways common online media and information outlets’ are usually designed allow for viewers to view concepts that they already understand, believe, and will most likely limit their variety of media due to personal preference. It is very easy for young voters to relate what they already know to a media outlet that is repeating their beliefs. Ultimately, the dominant information outlets on the Internet limit political awareness in the young voter population.
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Pariser, Eli, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Evgeny Morozov, and Jacob Weisberg. “Is The Internet Closing Our Minds Politically?” Interview. Audio blog post. N.p., 23 Apr. 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2012
“President Clinton Explains Mitt Romney’s $5 Trillion Tax Cut.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Oct. 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mB7I0vpwT7M>.
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