On Thursday, February 21, candidates for ASCMC Executive Board launched social media efforts to ramp up their campaigns for the election. This was the first election since the constitutional ban on social media was sticken from the ASCMC constitution.
Candidates used a variety of different mediums to publicize their campaign platforms on social media. While most used Facebook pages or groups, Vice President Candidate Adam Griffith ’14 and Sophomore Class President Candidate Iris Liu ’16 deviated from other candidates by also using Twitter and Prezi, respectively. ASCMC President Aditya Pai ’13 emailed a compiled list of social media outlets used by candidates to the entire student body two days before voting began.
While the ban was initially instituted to avoid a popularity contest, limit the barrage of election-related material, protect the online presence of CMC students of running office, and promote personal campaigning, most students believed that social media bolstered rather than hindered the quality of campaigning this year.
Student Body President-elect Gavin Landgraf ’14 believes the use of social media “improved the quality of the discussion.” Said Landgraf, “Rather than perpetuate a popularity contest, social media allowed the election to be more about the issues, by providing people more insight into those issues.”
Sophomore Class President candidate Ben Turner ’16 also felt favorable towards the use of social media. “The general consensus towards the inclusion of social media I feel has been positive and welcoming, something perhaps highlighted by a school known for an informed and politically-interested student body, which of course makes campaigning and elections all the more interesting,” commented Turner.
Earlier last semester, a Committee on Technology and Elections (CoTE) investigated the use of social media in elections and came to many of the above conclusions in their 38-page report that social media would be a positive influence in campaigns.
The feedback, however, was not unanimously positive.
Social Life Chair-elect Jessica Jin ’16 felt the reviews on social media were mixed. “I think people enjoy seeing all the creative things the candidates are putting out there, but at the same time, others have been annoyed at how much it clogs up their news feeds,” said Jin.
CoTE member Ian O’Grady ’15, however, argued this problem was fixable. Said O’Grady, “Some people find the campaign propaganda annoying, but what’s great about social media is you control what’s on your newsfeed.”
In fact, Jessica Valenzuela ’16 felt that “the inundation of flyers and posters around campus—even in the bathrooms—was more annoying than the social media presence.”
Another major change to the online activity during elections was that the article with candidate statements on the Forum was opened to comments with moderation by the Elections Committee.
While some of the comments spurred more discussion about the viability, experience, or vision of candidates, others were pointedly targeted at individuals or not pertinent to the election itself.
To fix this issue, Landgraf suggested, “It might be worthwhile to make the comments on the article with candidate statements non-anonymous, where students have to sign in through a social networking site.” Landgraf believes this change would allow people to engage in discussion but avoid libelous comments and smearing of reputations that would hurt candidates when they later enter the job market.
Much of this mixed reaction from social media could stem from the fact that social media is a new presence in elections and, with time, new policies and proposals will be adopted to fix the kinks.
As Jin puts it, “One election cycle cannot show you the breadth of the effects of social media.”