Nowadays, social networks are hardly separable from the life of modern society. Besides communication, people use them for giving advice, sharing professional experience, offering services, and settling bargains. Social networking sites serve numerous functions. Initially intended for communication and entertainment, nowadays, they interfere with all spheres of the life – commercial, political, and spiritual. Especially notable is the role of social networking in politics as it contributes to the deciding of the fates of entire countries or even of the world for the better or the worse.
Social networks, like Facebook, are the source of information, the means of its transfer to the audience as well as a convenient platform for positioning. Different public figures tend to have their accounts on the social network sites that help them mold the public perception in a favorable light. Social networking may perform the role of a media channel. Politicians become closer to those at whom they aim with their activity. They post their points of view, promises, and appeals to the people and other politicians. Thanks to social networking sites, political debates may take place in the online mode. It enables the voters to be active participants, to express their attitude and estimation, to comment messages, maintain their opinion or support the speaker’s position. The feeling of involvement stirs up the interest of people. In any case, social networking has altered the approach to the cooperation with the public significantly – they have become equal participants in the dialog, making people feel heard. It is a wonderful way to engage people. Such format of communication perfectly fuels a human ego. Most people strive to deliver their thoughts to those with whom it is practically impossible to get in contact. Society likes to think they can decide and determine something. Social networking sites like Facebook help realize the right to liberty of speech – everybody has a voice to express their own opinion against the government.
Social networking offers new opportunities in various spheres, including politics. Remarkable is the fact that the Internet media has a range of tools effective in pre-election campaigns. The presidential election in 2008 is a good example of successful use of social networking sites. An important reason is that more and more people addressed Facebook - one of the most popular social networks to follow political events. In addition, the social network area offered numerous possibilities for both contenders for power and their electorate. The former energetically used the web space to dispute with political competitors and to communicate with people, to create groups, to start activities or share information about the past events, to collect donations. The latter made use of the social network taking part in political dialogues, sharing information, and expressing opinions. Facebook, like other social networking sites, contributed to development of the reputation of the candidates by purposefully spreading positive information about their campaigns and blurring other political opponents. At the same time, social networking sites perform a uniting or mustering function to mobilize the users, to remind them to come to the elections.
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A social research showed that almost 40% of Americans used the Internet to receive the latest information about the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign. There were representatives of various race groups, men and women, people of different age although with dominance of younger and middle-aged generation and of those with education and higher income. Thus, Facebook helped monitor the situation and predicted the election results and correlate the data (Robertson, Vatrapu, & Medina, 2010).
The world becomes smaller with the use of social networking. It provides an opportunity to reach more people to promote activism although not the real high-risk one. It helps gain political support inside and outside the countries as well as organize and recruit participants, gather meetings and protest actions. In this concern, there are both positive and negative examples: political changes in Egypt in 2011, the Tunisian revolution in 2011, Islamic State (Delany, 2011). The organizers used Facebook to gain attention the public, organize political events, obtain support and raise funds.
The influence of social networking sites in general and Facebook in particular in modern society expands, which results from their interactivity and absent or minimal control from the government. They promote political issues as well as economic and legal ones; they help react to people’s requests of people, influence social and political processes in society, foster future political leaders, and gain people’s support. Social networking practically penetrates the life of every person, molding opinions and preferences, although it is not always for the good cause.