The rapid growth of social media in recent years means people are exposed to an abundance of information every day, but there is little research on the effects such exposure has on political interest and engagement. The two most popular social media outlets, Facebook and Twitter, provide vast amounts of political information, from news on politics to political campaigns, and young people, as heavy social media users, are the most exposed to this information.
This post looks at the results of a research project that investigated the effect of social media on youth political interest. The undertaken research demonstrated that social media is a major source of political knowledge and that it indirectly affects the political interest of youth and has the potential to increase it. The main data was collected through focus groups and interviews where students at the University of Nottingham, aged between 18 and 24, with supplementary data from the Belgian Political Panel Study.
Even though social media has not been previously discussed as an agent of political socialization, our research found that it can be more powerful than traditional media. Social media provides similar features in terms of exposure to information but has the additional benefits of global reach, better quality and greater speed, while also being an interactive platform for political discussion.
Youth today frequently get their political information from social media rather than traditional media. The information given is more interactive, user-centered, briefer, easier to process and visually attractive. People are increasingly posting online their views concerning politics and social issues, sharing news articles, ‘following’ political figures, watching videos connected to politics and ‘tweeting’ about politics. Use of social media can mean more exposure to information and also a higher interest in politics, but first the audience’s attention must be won. Therefore, it can be concluded that social media is suitable to spread knowledge among the youth and implicitly increase their political interest.