The 2016 election in 140 characters

Unless you’ve been totally off the grid, you know that the social media site Twitter has played an instrumental role in this year’s presidential election.

In the past, Facebook has played a key role in sharing your political views. This year especially, Twitter has taken it a step further, with the candidates themselves battling it out over the platform. Arguably, Twitter has been revived by this election and has gone beyond its typical role as a social media site, and has instead become a valuable political device.

This election is unique in its own right, given the personalities of the candidates and the possibility of the first female president. However, this is also the first time that social media has played such an important role. The social media site has been used strategically by both presidential candidates as part of their campaigns.  It has also given the public a unique glimpse into a less polished, more authentic candidate this election cycle. For instance, Donald Trump, despite telling formal press that he found debate questions to be fair, took to Twitter to express his real feelings. He gave his followers a more impulsive and less moderated perspective on the debate questions in the form of 140 character Tweets.

Sean Evins, the government and politics manager for Twitter, helps politicians to set up and use their Twitter accounts as a public forum. He discussed Donald Trump’s Twitter use in an interview at the Democratic National Convention.

“It’s interesting watching the way that Donald Trump uses his Twitter account to break news and information, live tweet speeches and debates of the opposing party, and to engage with other candidates and elected officials and also voters and supporters,” Evins said.

Not only has Twitter given us a flood of information and opinions from the candidates in this race, but it also has been used as a way for voters to express their ideas about the election in real time.

Those unable to watch the debate could simply log onto Twitter and get a comprehensive replay of everything that was said by either candidate, along with thousands of users’ commentary on the comment. While most of this content is meant to be merely entertaining, in many instances, it can also be informative.

By reading one of the many “Top 20 things you need to know about tonight’s debate” articles floating around the site, people were able to get a full recap of what transpired. Twitter wanted to assure that everyone had the information they needed to generate informed tweets and additionally live-streamed the debates on the site.

Major news regarding the election was often first seen on Twitter, giving people breaking news long before they could hear about it on their local news or read about it in the morning paper.

In addition to the site serving as a useful tool to explore various political opinions, Twitter also acted as a way for voters to declare their own allegiance. By simply retweeting the hashtags #I’mWithHer or #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, users made it clear to their followers what their opinions were and that they weren’t afraid to show it.

Aside from just being an outlet for users to get more information or voice their opinions, Twitter served as a link between voters and the candidates. Users were able to submit questions for the debates via Twitter, allowing many people to participate in asking questions that they otherwise would not have been able to. This made the debates seem a lot more accessible, as virtually anyone had the opportunity to ask a question for consideration.

This unique accessibility, paired with a more authentic look at the candidates, is arguably what fueled Twitter’s ascent into one of the top spots to get political information. Twitter is sure to play an important role in the rest of the election and certainly a big role on Election Day.

By Dani DeVries, Opinion Editor