Should people who have never stepped foot in the US have any influence on the US election? I’m not sure about the ‘should’ part, but let me tell how millions of foreigners are going to influence the presidential election and why I’m going to be one of these people.
Today, ideas flow much more freely between individuals of different continents. Information is less limited and many more people have, both access to it and power to disseminate it. In the contemporary context of globalization, the classical idea of sovereign states is being eroded in many ways, social media being one perfect example.
There was a lot of talk of foreign intervention in the last election cycle in the US. There is strong evidence that foreign governments tried to deliberately influence the election, but countless foreigners certainly influenced the election without even realizing it. Social media was responsible and there is no need for an investigation to prove this. Some private companies and individuals made money out of advertisements while spreading divisive and sometimes false information about the candidates.
But what’s even more clear is that millions of people around the world reacted to soundbites and news stories about the election. Americans, you have to admit it, your political process is good quality entertainment! Millions of people influenced the election by watching content about it. Watching, liking and commenting tells the algorithms, that the content is profitable, which makes it more visible go and sometimes viral. Simply by being interested in American politics, you are influencing American politics. But some people, like me, are in a more special position that gives us even more leverage.
Foreign media creators
I run a Facebook page called More Trees Less Assholes. I have close to 300000 followers and around half of them are from the US. I didn’t have to do anything special to target people from the US. Simply, many people in the US care about trees, like the name of the page and the kind of content I create. So, I have around 150000 followers in the US. That doesn’t sound like a lot of people, but let’s consider the fact that the last election was decided by a handful of voters, around 80000, in three states. I don’t have so many followers in these particular states, but looking at the number of followers doesn’t reflect the number of people that you can reach with your posts. If just a thousand followers share and like a post, that post will reach, let’s say, a hundred thousand people. Over the period of an election year, my posts reach at least 30 million people. That’s the number of times that a post appears on the newsfeed of someone. I can’t tell if they are just scrolling down while being on the toilet, but the numbers are high nevertheless. Not all of them are going to be in the US, but a significant amount is going to be US citizens.
I can’t single-handedly swing an election, but considering I’m just one private individual, my influence is not insignificant. And who am I to have to so much media reach in the US? I’m a Bulgarian living in Belgium, and I have never even been in the US. Why should I have any power to influence the elections of this country, even in the slightest, tiniest way? It’s counterintuitive to assume that this is something desirable, but I will be influencing politics in the US, no matter what I do.
I can’t not do it !
First of all, if I have an audience that is interested in the protection of the environment, it just doesn’t make sense not to talk about politics. A lot of what is decided about the environment comes down to political decisions. Electing, arguably, the most powerful person in the world sounds like something, that can have a lot of impact on the environment. It would be irresponsible not to engage with my followers and talk about the election. Besides, the decisions that the US makes have a very big impact on the rest of the planet. What is going to be decided in Washington will have a very big influence on the decisions that are made in Brussels, whether I like it or not. The US is also the biggest polluter and since we happen to share the same planet, what the US does is kind of a global issue. The same is true for all the other major economies.
I would like to talk about the candidates and I’m probably going find that one is better on environmental issues than all the other ones. I will probably share articles about this and I’ll certainly express my opinions in my posts and comment sections. But let’s imagine that I wouldn’t say a word about the candidates and that I would remain completely silent about the presidential election. Just by virtue of talking about the issues, I’ll still be influencing voters. If I make posts about the severity of the climate crisis and the types of policies that should be adopted, I’ll be indirectly supporting certain candidates over others. People are going to make the connection between the issues and what the different candidates talk about. Having a sizeable US audience and making hundreds of posts during the election year will probably have some impact, even if I would go out of my way to avoid talking directly about the primaries and the presidential race. And I’m just one of the thousands of foreign content creators that have organic access to US audiences. Hundreds of millions of other people are also going to interact with posts directly related to the election.
The world is interconnected
If you read the article expecting a clear conclusion or a prescriptive statement, you are going to be disappointed. I don’t know how social media should be regulated, I just wanted to share my perspective on the effects of social media on politics.
The US is also influencing elections and politics around the world in so many ways. Let’s even forget about the US government. The decisions made in Silicon Valley have sparked revolutions in many countries and have contributed directly to the election of pretty much every politician in the last election cycles in nearly every country in the world. And this corporate influence didn’t even start with social media, American media corporations own other media outlets in a vast number of countries.
We live in an increasingly interconnected world, and I believe that this something that we should embrace. People from every country face similar threats, especially when it comes down to economic and environmental issues. The corporations and governments creating these problems and stalling the progress are already interconnected and help each other for many years. It’s about time that regular people also realize that we are on the same side and that we can learn from each other and support one another.
Thank you for reading the article until the end, I really appreciate it. Our attention spans have been severely cut, you would be surprised to find out how few people take the time to read past the headlines. I believe this has a more negative influence on our political system than any other aspect of social media. Let me know what you think about this subject, I would like to get some feedback. Should I talk about the election ? Should I support a specific candidate? Do you think that social media has to be regulated to diminish the effects of foreign influence?
If you enjoyed the article interact with the post on Facebook, so that more people can see it, and if you want to help me keep this website online and free of corporate influence considered supporting my work.
Steve the Bartender