Social media reshaping political campaigns

Published February 20, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Jun Ynares


Dr. Jun Ynares

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

Since the political pot started to heat up, it became clear that in this particular elections, social media is the propaganda battle-ground. It is what candidates will make most use of to win over the free-market/independent votes. It is where ideas will clash, platforms will be compared and candidates’ character will be judged.

In the 2022 elections, social media has established itself as the undisputed king.

There is an upside and a downside to this development.

Let’s talk about the upside.

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

Two, it has put candidates under more stringent scrutiny.

Three, it has empowered the free-market/independent voters.

Four, the generation of Filipinos in their late-20s to their early 30s – young people who know the mechanism and power of social media like the back of their hand– could emerge as this elections’ “king maker.”

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

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

During those days, people flocked to the many political “miting” which ran from early evening to the wee hours of dawn to see their candidates and hear them deliver “bombastic” speeches about the future and the promise that the nation can be great again.

Radio was where candidates poured in most of their advertising money. That was the era of campaign jingles which sounded like commercials for a margarine or a song-and-dance number at a vaudeville. Our elders remember those times as “fun.”

Then, came the reign of television. In the 1990 to early 2000s, that was the medium where campaign teams poured in most of their advertising money. The cost of campaign advertising rose to unprecedented levels. It cost candidates an arm and a leg to get a 30-seconder at ultra-popular television noontime shows.

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

This year, the “veterans” may be giving way to young people – the so-called “digital natives”- who can come up with a social media post, a TikTok video, an Instagram material, all in a matter of minutes. They can make them go viral within the hour.

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

Social media has given the free-market/independent voters a strong voice. They are now actively questioning candidates’ past and present, their alliances and allegiances, their campaign platform or the absence of it. Thanks to social media, independent voters are now talking to the candidates directly. They are making what’s on their mind known without filters and editorial barriers.

Social media has turned many people into high-commitment voters. Many are spending time in social media defending their candidates, attacking their candidates’ rivals, or just telling the whole world who they are voting for.

In a way, social media has “polarized” the voting public early. We have heard a lot of stories about friends parting ways and relatives disowning each other because of opposing political views and allegiances. The rise in animosity is happening at a time when “bashing” has become a buzzword and “unfriending” in Facebook has become a trend.

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

That heat is being fueled by free-market/independent voters, many of them young.

Social media is on fire. This is good for democracy. This is voter power.

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