In 2020, social media plays a bigger role in politics

During the 2020 vice presidential debate, a fly landed on Vice President Mike Pence’s head and caused a social media uproar. 

Social media users all had different reactions to the debate. Some shared their concerns about Vice President Pence’s views on systemic racism. Others laughed, created memes and even made an Instagram page for the famed fly. 

Some use social media as a tool to learn and process more knowledge on political issues. Others believe these platforms make a mockery of the presidential race. 

Georgia State professor Jeannie Grussendorf specializes in political science and thought the “pathetic” fly memes took away from more pressing issues. 

In fact, the fly detracted far too much from issues and thus just seems to exemplify how our elections seem to be not at all about substance but all about style,” Grussendorf said.

The debate moderator confronted Pence about Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky. His answer fell short of some viewer’s expectations.

Although he gave condolences to Taylor’s family and expressed sadness for her death, he also denied that systemic racism existed or played a role in her death. His answer left many speechless, angry and disappointed.

“For anyone to deny the continuing presence of systemic racism is just baffling to me,” Grussdendorf said. “It doesn’t take much for anyone to see the pervasive effects of centuries of racist policies and the ongoing damage done to Americans as a consequence of it.”

She hopes people will focus more on real issues instead of laughing and joking about meaningless incidents. 

Unlike Grussendorf, Georgia State alumnus Les McBride believes that social media plays a positive role in politics. He uses social media to stay informed and up to date with the election and the debates.

“I have never been one to sit down and watch a debate full through or keep up with politics through news because I feel that the bickering between the presidential candidates is unnecessary and childish,” he said. “I have alway felt that politics can get way too messy for me, so I would much rather keep up with it through social media.” 

McBride decided that it was best for him to follow politics through social media instead of mainstream media. 

“I do agree that the fly memes can be too much of a distraction,” he said. “It’s important for an individual to ignore the jokes on social media and only pay attention to what is truly important, like the candidate’s views on the issues.”

McBride hopes that others will use social media more strategically for politics as he does. He ignores all meme pages and only focuses on those that post reliable political information.  

Whether social media has a positive or negative effect on politics depends on the person behind the account. While some create memes and laugh about political events, others seek valuable information that is shared on social media.