24th June 2016
#Brexit or #Bremain – Have You Been Tweeting?
Whether you follow current politics or not, the ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’ campaigns have really taken over pretty much every media channel – and rightly so, it’s a big decision! What’s struck me as particularly interesting is the result the EU Referendum has had on my personal social media feed – mainly on Facebook and Twitter. Now, whilst I appreciate that your personal social media is a way to express yourself, it’s typically not used for politics, but rather to share information about your lifestyle and engage with friends and brands.
So we now know the result of the EU Referendum was to leave to EU, with a 51.9% majority, and 48.1% voting to remain in the EU. This came as little surprise to me, as the personal political posts on my Facebook and Twitter newsfeed had already demonstrated a 50/50 split. But how has politics not only creeped onto social media, but rather dominated it, for a good few weeks? Well, I feel as though hashtags have made it easy to identify a person’s political standing, and as such, have perhaps desensitised the anonymity of the ballot paper.
So what are hashtags?
Hashtags create a ‘channel’, a way to ‘tune in’ to people who share similar interests to you. Popular topical hashtags include #FridayFeeling and #WednesdayWisdom and well as generally popular hashtags such as #Cute, #Love, #BestFriend and even #Cake (yum). So, the general theme seems to be that they are lifestyle type words and phrases that are broad, fun and far-reaching – typically they don’t aim to divide or have any sort of agenda, political or otherwise.
It’s at this point that it seems appropriate to introduce the following ‘political’ hashtags that have been associated with the EU Referendum:
What’s interesting is a hashtag’s ability to have far-reaching effects – so you can use it knowing your tweet (and therefore your opinion) can be seen by Steve Blogs down the street, as well as people all over the world. Couple this with people who may have been on the fence with how they might vote, and you have an avenue, via Twitter or Facebook, to tune in to those with strong opinions. By ‘strong opinions’ I mean willingness to post publicly via social media on how they feel about the EU Referendum. Whilst this is a great way to see how people backing that political grounding feel, it also creates an unregulated avenue for people to do their research. After all, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.
Does this play on human behaviour?
Needing to belong to a group and feel accepted is a fundamental characteristic of being human. We see this day to say with how you choose to identify yourself – whether that’s through age, gender, sexuality, religion or indeed political opinion. It’s the latter than has become particularly dominant in the past weeks, and hashtags – inadvertently perhaps – have created a strong avenue to associate yourself with a specific campaign. This, without a doubt, gives you an identity, and you can ‘tune in’ to others around you to feel as though you’re ‘standing united’, albeit with potentially a bunch of strangers.
What’s even more impressive is how these hashtags, particularly #Brexit, have made their way to the likes of the BBC, among others, when reporting on the EU Referendum. I can only imagine a world where #Cake makes the headlines – but I can live in hope.