Since the beginning of this year, political experts have been predicting a red wave in the next midterm elections. While the Republican Party won due to high inflation and high gas prices and low consumer confidence, Democrats led by Joe Biden enjoyed a great August. It has caused some to predict more of an “red ripple” rather than a wave. Some GOP leaders suggest the Democrats might retain the Senate.
While current polls indicate that voters are leaning toward the Democrats, social media may tell a different story. Many users still believe there will be an election with a red wave, despite being able to see it in recent polls. At the same time, as many users on the social platforms – perhaps even more – have suggested for months that a blue wave is actually coming.
Both can be correct.
Recent election cycles have seen social media become a tool that helps predict which voters will cheer for and what they might do on Election Night. It all depends on whom you listen too, since both sides can be extremely hyped up. The result can be a misinterpretation of proverbial tea leaves.
In other words, social media remains especially biased – but not necessarily to one side.
“In his BookThere are ten reasons to delete your social media account right nowJaron Lanier’s article refutes the argument that social media is biased towards one side or another. “The correct directional bias description appears to be down as in that’s what we’re all being dragged,” said Craig Barkacs (professor of business law at the Knauss School of Business, University of San Diego).
Barkacs stated that social media is a business built on clicking. This means it thrives off clicks. Bias and conflicts attract attention, and that’s what brings in the revenue. So it follows that there’s nothing like an intense red-versus-blue-equals-green contest during the political season to whip people into a frenzy and drive up the dollars.”
Social media platforms organize their content feeds often based on the interests of users.
“If we have told the platform—directly or indirectly—that we are progressive or conservative, Democrats or Republicans, then social media platforms will show us content that leans in our political direction,” said Julianna Kirschner, Ph.D, lecturer for the Master of Communication Management program at the University of Southern California.
This has led to echo chambers where one’s beliefs and those of the platforms only serve to reinforce them. Biases can often seem to be magnified. This makes it easy for oneself to believe that they are more representative of the wider population than actually is.
Kirschner explained that social media has a bias because of the way their algorithms are structured to organize what we see and reinforce our prejudices. Voters and other public figures could believe that there will either be a blue-wave or a red-wave in the midterms if they spend enough time in virtual spaces. That is because their social media feeds reinforce those beliefs.
Platforms of discourse, not discussion
Social media has become a platform for discourse, not discussion – but it is also an echo chamber where like-minded individuals share their opinions. Both sides are able to make bold predictions regarding the forthcoming election. These heated conversations are not a good way to forecast the outcome.
Even people who spend the effort to make an argument are not always able to win.
“The writer/posters consist mainly of amateurs, who have never spoken of an impartial journalistic creed. Nearly all of social media can be described as an opinion page. Only the writers and language are less incisive than the others,” stated James Bailey, professor of leadership in the George Washington University School of Business. Social Media can be used as a gauge of temperature, but this is an error for many reasons.
Bailey stated that the content of social media sites is often not vetted and its credibility is seriously questionable. Bailey added: “It is not representative of the whole population. It is instead written by people who are able to do so. There are good chances that you will draw one red ball from an urn filled with 19 red and 1 blue balls. Anyone—from politicians to businesspeople—that bases decisions of consequence on social media is playing with fire. It is a fire that will not die tomorrow, but it’s more likely to be here today.