It appears that with the use of social media, it is hard for our generation to keep anything quiet. We feel a great need to proclaim to the world the new and big happenings in our lives. With photo albums, twitter posts, and relationship status updates, keeping our family and friends updated with the most accurate information about our personal lives has become a social norm.
This remained to be true during the 2012 Presidential Election. Many of my peers and I were first time voters and, with that, came a lot of excitement. So it was only natural that on the days following up to Nov. 6th I, as well as many of those on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Tumblr, saw countless posts of friends and family saying, not only that they voted, but also who they voted for. Sometimes I even saw pictures of people’s ballots with their candidate checked. On this blog alone, you will find many posts of students talking about who they voted for and even some pictures of their actual vote on a physical ballot.
Whether people are encouraging others to vote or disclosing who they themselves voted for, according to a Pew study on Social Media and Voting, about 74% of registered voters were apart of this “‘social vote’ cohort.” With “Election day Tweets total[ing] 32 Million,” and countless posts seen on Facebook and Tumblr, I began to wonder about the ethics of voting and how social media has really affected the way we look at voting in this country.
I found that, the effects of this activity may be mixed. According to the same Pew Study, an article in Politico points out, Thirty percent of registered voters “said friends and family had used social media to encourage them to vote for President Barack Obama or Republican candidate Mitt Romney.” This may imply that political activity on social media encourages people to become more politically involved and bring more people out to vote. At the same time, however, Lee Raine, the project director of the Pew Study (in the Politico article linked above) points out, “Once they see [posting about their vote] as sort of a common practice in their network, at some point it becomes something that they are feeling embarrassed not to share…It becomes a network expectation.” This expecatation may be difficult for person who may be undecided and to whom voting is indeed a very personal and private affair, who then feels an inappropriate amount of pressure from their peers to form similar beliefs.
In my research, I also discovered that, in some states, taking a picture of your ballot counted as a misdemeanor (Find out your state’s laws on documenting your vote here). I realized then that some of my friends were breaking the law by posting their ballot on the internet. The main argument for this law was that going to the voting booth was a private and personal matter, and thus a documentation of such would work against personal protection of privacy. I chuckled a bit thinking back to witnessing two of my good friends making a photomontage of their voting experience just for the purpose of posting it on the internet for the world to see. I can just imagine the horror that those who believe voting should be a private and personal experience would feel by witnessing this fun and public approach to voting.
I find especially in college where many students opt for an absentee ballot, voting is a more flexible and (serious but) casual experience. Voting with an absentee ballot is like being in the voting booth with all of your friends and everyone who has a care to be on the internet. This continues to make voting a less private experience for our generation.
With a plethora of information at our fingertips and the ballot so close to our friends, voting will probably continue to be a more publicized event for our generation.