280 Characters

By Ben Chamberlin

How has the use of social media altered our ability to persuade?

Social media is handy. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram keep millions of people in touch with the world from their pockets. Social media can be a method of outreach for individuals seeking to grow a platform and create content. Social media also keeps scattered families connected through shared photos and videos. Now, politicians have found their way onto social media. Access to political candidates’ platforms has made it extremely easy for people in America and all over the world to see what an individual believes about governance. Social media puts politicians in direct contact with voters who have the power to keep them accountable.

Bumper sticker politics

Despite all these benefits of social media, there is a crucial flaw in how social media makes us view the world. Social media removes context and tone. Twitter only allows 280 characters per tweet. This entire paragraph is exactly 280 characters long. How can this affect writing?

It is not easy to change someone’s mind or demonstrate a complicated idea with such a short paragraph. Realistically, tweets are a new iteration of bumper sticker politics. Republican and Democrat commentators’ posts exhibit this perfectly. Politics on social media consist of one-liners that attempt to paint the opposing party or person as unintelligent. While it is exhilarating to see a frustrating politician put in their place by a well-formulated comeback, degrading the opposite party only pushes them further away from your viewpoint.

The long and short of it

I could have summarized the content of this op-ed in 280 characters, but I would have been unable to convey my intentions in expressing my views on this topic. The reader would not see that I do understand how useful these platforms can be and that I am merely aiming to point out a single flaw in how people tend to use them. More likely, the reader would mistake my critique as a blanket statement that social media is bad for society. That being said, a short tweet would absolutely gain more traction than this much longer op-ed will, which is why politicians will continue to use Twitter for as long as it is popular.

Unfortunately, political commentators and politicians use social media to advance their beliefs in short form, so we are left with inadequate comebacks and bumper sticker slogans that change no one’s mind and only divide our nation. Posting on Instagram or tweeting is easy. Writing well-thought-out opinions and statements is difficult because it requires one to think and organize an argument in a clear and succinct way. Since the advent of social media, Americans have begun to treat politics as a form of reality TV, not as if the people we elect and the policies we support have real-world consequences.

Ben Chamberlin is a junior at Grove City College with a major in political science and a minor in business. Ben is a contributing writer to the Collegian, plays intramural soccer, is an avid snowboarder, and was a resident assistant over the 2021-2022 school year. In 2022, Ben was a summer associate at the Vogel Group, a bipartisan lobbying firm, in Washington, D.C.

Ben is foremost a Texan, but he has moved 9 times over his life, including living in Shanghai China, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. Through his travels, he has enjoyed connecting with people in many different cultures, and he values dialogue and debate. He looks forward to the opportunity to engage with ideas, culture, and public policy through IFF, with a view to serving Christ in politics or the legal profession after college.