This election was won, in part, by the computer. And the iPhone. And the Blackberry.
If I ever wondered whether social media was “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (which it usually is), this election changed my mind for good.
Just how much did social media influence the election? Barack Obama reached a new pool of young voters with a plethora of networking tools, most notably giants like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter. He energized bloggers and the politically minded, inspiring them to share his message.
Web strategist Jeremaih Owyang shares some stats and a good interpretation of the results in his blog. He found that Obama had 380% more supporters on both Facebook and MySpace than McCain. On YouTube, Obama had 1792 videos uploaded since Nov 2006 while McCain had 329 videos uploaded since Feb 2007. @barakobama has 112,474 followers on Twitter to McCain’s 4,603. Jeremaih suggests that McCain’s campaign jumped on the social media bandwagon far later than Obama, only recently launching its own social network. In addition, Greg Mankiw, professor of Economics at Harvard University, analyzed a graph showing the young Republican vote for the last 8 years. The graph “suggests that the real difference between the past two elections and this one was the youth vote” He writes. “In this election, the young left the Republican party in droves.”
As far along as 8pm on Election Night, commentators wondered whether or not the active users of social media would actually turn out after they changed their “get out the vote” status on Facebook, posted links advertising their intentions, and chatted with their friends about heading to the polls. But they did not disappoint. According to Rock The Vote, more young people turned out to vote than ever before- 24 million of them. On the live stream of CNN.com on Election Night, John Norris of MTV commented “technology has influenced the election in new and inventive ways,” and while Obama has been able to “reach the young with their own tools,” McCain’s camp has failed to grow the Republican party. They just couldn’t create the same kind of tidal wave of online momentum.
What happens online can undoubtedly help shape our real-world future. Obama brought his campaign to the people through the computer screen and the mobile device, making even apathetic young Americans—depressed by the political situation and virtually devoid of hope of change—care again. Like me.