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The power of politics and people in today’s social media world

Tuesday 04-08-2015 - 14:19

I was invited on the BBC’s Newsnight on Friday evening to talk about engagement with politics. Along with other panellists on the programme I discussed whether people are looking elsewhere to form their opinions.

It is certainly the case that people are growing less trusting of traditional media and of politicians. With the rise of social media it is now far easier to have proper conversations with each other. But it is also now far easier to be an influencer yourself rather than rely on traditional opinion formers. I think it is clear from the general election that students and young people are interested in politics. However they are not necessarily engaging through the ‘traditional’ routes.

That’s why I believe we continue to see a sense of disconnect between their opinions and the attitudes of politicians towards them. We are getting increasingly used to being able to have our voices and our views heard. But for students and young people where the ‘establishment’ gets involved, acts or interferes it seems to make things worse for them. This will only lead to further disaffection for those politicians and growing distrust. We need to make sure that our actions and our views are heard and acted upon. Some of the other panellists made valid points about the nature of social media and the idea of an ‘echo chamber’.

It is great that you can now tap into networks of people who want to have the same conversation as you. More so than traditional media, you are able to feel a sense of who agrees with you and who seeks to challenge you. We all now find it much easier to find other people experiencing the same things as us. That is a challenge to the traditional media and traditional networks of power. But it is also a challenge to us. We must make sure that our own conversations really do reach out and engage other networks and communities.

We must ensure that we not only talk to ourselves and reinforce our own views but that we influence others. That we can change and influence other people’s opinions. But so too, we must ensure that our politicians and our politics hears and reflects more of these more diverse views.

We all now have the ability to be influencers and opinion formers. Let’s make sure we use that to reach out, and not just re-create the outdated ideas and structures of the traditional politics and media.

You can watch the panel discussion from 14 minutes in here on the BBC iPlayer; Megan Dunn: Newsnight

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