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Good or Bad? The Role of Memes in Politics

INSCMagazine: Get Social!

By Carol Trehearn

It’s a pretty well known fact that social media plays a huge part in modern campaigning and politics.

From hashtags on Twitter to Facebook pages, the candidates of the 2016 presidential election are using social media more than ever before in order to use the internet to maximize their contact with voters.

However, the non-traditional forms of campaigning in this election seem to have extended beyond most e-communication tools, with many young Americans finding a unique and accessible method of expressing their political beliefs: memes.

What are Memes?

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, memes are funny photos with captions, creating humorous concepts which spread through the internet, essentially functioning as an inside joke that millions of internet users are ‘in on’. Usually, the meme is an image, video or piece of text which can be adapted to a range of different circumstances.

Traditionally, memes were created and shared mainly for entertainment, but as time goes on they are being used more and more for the purpose of getting political views across.

Politics and Entertainment

The huge prevalence of memes throughout the 2016 Presidential campaign has sparked a number of debates as to whether or not politics are being seen as a form of entertainment. Discussing politics as a form of entertainment can be a double-edged sword, as when people are driven to talk about politics based on its entertainment value they can often develop opinions based on a vague ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ of a particular candidate rather than making a decision based on the comprehension of the candidate’s platform.

Less Room for Traditional News

As more and more young Americans are turning to non-traditional methods of news to gather their information and form opinions regarding politics, less and less time is being given to traditional news platforms and sources. Whilst most traditional sources of news will fact-check and try to give unbiased views on politics and candidates, non-traditional sources such as memes and social media tend to be a free-for-all, giving fabricated information and biased reports.

This in itself can be a problem for young people who try to follow politics, as the information which they are basing their opinion on is not solid.

Getting Conversations Started

However, on the other hand political memes and the discussion of politics on social media can help to get important conversations started. Entertainment politics, especially memes, tend to get people who’d normally sit election season out talking about the different candidates and can often encourage people to do more research and eventually place a vote.

Although it may not always be factual or unbiased, there is no doubt that using social media and memes in politics gets many young people interested in political parties and campaigns, which is vital for getting the younger generation voting.

Memes are becoming more and more of a powerful communication tool. Which are your favorite political memes – or which you do you think aren’t that good at all? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com