In my treatment of online social media for social good in previous blog posts, I have touched upon the use of these online social platforms to promote communication for social change as witnessed in what we now call the Arab Spring, to galvanize interest and participation in charitable works, such as with a foundation to help young girls in Liberia to be lifted from poverty through education, and to promote spiritual and religious good by bands that are part of a global Christian youth revival movement that are using the rock concert venue to create a worship experience.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the power of online social media and social networking for social good in politics, in this case as witnessed by the rise of candidate Ron Paul who has been largely shunned by traditional media.
In the relatively short span since the defining of the Republican field of candidates and the first political caucus to choose a front-runner, Ron Paul has defied the predictions of naysayers in the traditional media and surfaced as a serious contender on the eve of the Iowa caucus.
That’s not to say that he was absent from participating in nationally broadcast debates and interviews or from newspaper and magazine coverage, but the tenure of followup coverage has seemed to this observer as dismissive or absent relative to the other candidates.
Nor is he free from attacks in online social media on his position and character as witnessed by a flurry of negative tweets and blog posts leading up to the Iowa caucus, seemingly increasing with his rising position in the polls. To experience a robust exchange of ideas – both supportive and detracting, type Ron Paul in the twitter.com search field or click on the following link:
His unique position on libertarian and constitutional grounds has garnered both followers and detractors, largely on the basis of his frank revelation of his positions on a wide array of political and social issues.
However, his meteoric and unanticipated political prominence speaks also to the robust activity and influence that social media and social networking are assuming in the political sphere and the groundswell of discontent with traditional politics and politicians.
Having said all this, I will admit to often being a relatively uninformed follower of things political, but when I observed his rise despite this biased treatment, I became interested in his candidacy and his rising position in light of these non-traditional online social platforms of communication.
In August 2011, I expressed this in a tweet that captured my emerging interest: “I rarely talk politics, but two words capture my interest – mainly because these words are shunned by media & political parties: #Ron #Paul”
Since then, I have followed Ron Paul’s tweet stream and noticed that I was in good company in terms of this insight and interest:
My latest check of his campaign Web site reveals a groundswell of individually conducted online donations that have already exceeded his initial goal of $4 million and is quickly approaching $6 million as of the date of this blog entry.
A row of icons at the top of his Web site confirms his robust use of online social media and social networking. Clicking on them brings you to his youtube.com channel, facebook.com page, and twitter stream where you can subscribe and follow the latest news and get involved in his campaign.
Would all this use of online social media and social networking make this kind of difference for other candidates?
I think not – in absence of a clear position as a dark horse in a field of traditional politicos endorsed by traditional media and a unique and consistent position on political, economic, and social concerns that resonate with a groundswell of discontent with politics as usual.
No matter the outcome, I believe that the effectiveness of online social media and social networking in support of Ron Paul provides the clearest indicator of its growing power and use in the future of our political system: social media for political good.
Who knows, we may be inching closer to changes in the political party system and its “behind closed doors” operations, and sowing seeds of greater public representation of voter expression – even transforming the process more directly to “one-person, one-vote” online voting.
We can hope, can’t we?
Your comments on the use of these online platforms for social and political good are welcome in reply.