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Top 8 Scholarly Pieces: Social Media and Politics


Based on an initial assessment, here are the top 8 scholarly articles and books about social media and its impact on politics, elections, and political participation. The list includes articles that discuss topics such as how Facebook impacted the 2008 presidential election and how social media has made politics more “personal.” This list is subject to change as the use of social media by politicians, activists, and the general population continues to evolve.

#1 Is Social Media Changing How We Understand Political Engagement?

This research conceptualizes political engagement in Facebook and examines the political activity of Facebook users during the 2008 presidential primary and general election. The authors conclude that individual political activity in Facebook is not as extensive as popular accounts suggest.
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1065912913482758

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#2 Networking Democracy?

Early conceptions of digital democracy as a virtual public sphere or civic commons have been replaced by a new technological optimism for democratic renewal based upon the open and collaborative networking characteristics of social media. In this article, a more cautious approach is suggested for the potential of social media to facilitate more participative democracy while acknowledging its disruptive value for challenging traditional interests and modes of communicative power.

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#3 The Personalization of Politics

This article by W. Lance Bennett proposes a framework for understanding
large-scale individualized collective action that is often
coordinated through digital media technologies. It discusses social
fragmentation and the decline of group loyalties, which have
given rise to an era of personalized politics in which
individually expressive personal action frames displace
collective action frames in many protest causes. This
trend can be spotted in the rise of large-scale, rapidly
forming political participation aimed at a variety of
targets, ranging from parties and candidates, to corporations,
brands, and transnational organizations. The
group-based “identity politics” of the “new social movements”
that arose after the 1960s still exist, but the
recent period has seen more diverse mobilizations in
which individuals are mobilized around personal lifestyle
values to engage with multiple causes such as
economic justice (fair trade, inequality, and development
policies), environmental protection, and worker
and human rights.
https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716212451428

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#4 Social Distraction? Social Media Use and Political Knowledge…

Drawing on both cross-sectional and panel data from two recent United States presidential elections, this study examines how political social media use and general social media use influence political knowledge. Both analyses indicate that political social media use does not have a significant effect on political knowledge, while general social media use has a moderately negative effect on political knowledge. The authors, therefore, contend that the overall impact of social media on political knowledge is negative.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563218303819?via%3Dihub

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#5 The Social Media President

This book discusses the ways in which social media has altered the way that people interact with each other - leveling the channels of communication to allow an individual to be "friends" with a sitting president. It addresses the new channels of communication in politics, and what they offer, in a world where a citizen can message Barack Obama directly on social media.

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#6 The Presidency and Social Media

This book aims to explain the role of media and communication outlets in the 2016 presidential election. It is centered around the idea that political media played a dominant and disruptive role in our democratic process during the election.

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#7 Social Media and Everyday Politics

Highfield's book discusses how social media are used for mundane and personal expressions of political commentary, engagement, and participation. The coverage of politics reflects the social mediation of everyday life, where individual experiences and thoughts are documented and shared online.

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#8 The Age of Twitter: DJT and the Politics of Debasement

A list of articles about social media and politics must include a piece about the current President's use of Twitter, so here it is! This essay explores the changing character of public discourse in the Age of Twitter. Adopting the perspective of media ecology, the essay highlights how Twitter privileges discourse that is simple, impulsive, and uncivil. This effect is demonstrated through a case study of Donald J. Trump's Twitter feed. The essay concludes with a brief reflection on the end times: a post-truth, post-news, President Trump, Twitter-world.

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