Social media have become a major outlet of how we communicate with each other and the world. Information is being shared constantly over different platforms, like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook that it almost starts to be overwhelming. During this midterm election cycle, as Nathaniel Perez reports, hashtags seem to be playing a major role in voter perceptions ahead of several competitive races in Nevada.
A Brief History of Trending Hashtags
A unique feature that is a part of the social media world is a hashtag. A hashtag is a word or phrase that is preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and is used to identify messages on a specific topic.
For example, the hashtag #MeToo helped many sexual assault victims share their stories and shed light on their stories due to the hashtag trending on Twitter.
When a hashtag becomes popular, it starts to trend and then it’s being shared on post after post. A hashtag can help spread content as it helps it become more public. Something that is very interesting about social media is how each users experience with it is different due to how they choose who and how they interact with it.
Gi Woong Yun, associate professor and director of the Center for Advanced Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno studies how users are self-selective when it comes to exposing themselves to social media and how it affects their views and opinions by the pages and people they choose to follow.
“Our self-exposure is kind of dividing us. How do we expose ourselves to certain content that we might necessary not like? Traditional media, like on television or well-known newspapers can play that role but now in this day of age those can be considered more liberal leaning or conservative leaning,” Gi Woong Yun, a UNR professor who studies social media and politics, said.
The Political Effect of Hashtags
Using certain hashtags that are being used and subscribed by different users can potentially increase and broaden an audience due to the traction it’s receiving even when there’s no common connection. It can also be picked up by news outlets when the hashtag is found newsworthy, like when Trump uses hashtags in his tweets to make them more sensational and it becomes more tempting for the news media to broadcast to their own audiences.
One notorious hashtag Trump uses is #FAKENEWS, often in all caps.
By using controversial hashtags, politicians and their campaigns are able to make an impact and provide information by sharing their policies and plans over different social media platforms.
Attack or Positive Hashtags?
“If you want to damage someone’s reputation you cannot explain it to the people in a long explanation. What you’re trying to say needs to be simplified and can initiate the voter’s imagination of the story as well as making sure they think of a specific candidate,” Yun said.
An example of this can be seen by the Jacky Rosen campaign branding her Senate race opponent, incumbent Dean Heller, with the nickname “Spineless Dean Heller” concerning his back and forth comments on health care legislation and protecting pre-existing conditions.
Will Hashtags Be Decisive?
Having a catch phrase like this has stuck and is easy for voters since many prefer a simple message. The hashtag “SenatorSpineless” is being seen on Twitter and has been used by Rosen as well as other Nevadans.
Voters are also using hashtags to show their support for Rosen. The hashtag #ReadyForRosen has been used by voters in favor of Rosen. A hashtag that is helping Heller’s campaign on Twitter is the hashtag #DeanDelivers. This support is coming from the community of voters in favor of Heller and helps give him a more positive image, and also speaks to his much longer political experience.
It has become a growing trend to use hashtags to help a candidate’s reputation but also to attack an opposing candidate’s image.
Now with social media becoming a big influence on voters, these images and slogans do not only stick in our memory but they also follow us around on our mobile devices. With the midterms just around the corner, it will be interesting to see if these strategies help candidates get their voters to the polls. For an extensive voter guide on Nevada political hashtags visit this page from the Nevada Vote popup newsroom: https://www.nvvote.com/hashtags
Reporting by Nathaniel Perez for the Reynolds Sandbox
Original Article: https://medium.com/rsjvote/nevadas-political-hashtags-play-key-factor-in-competitive-races-5cfd675a0c09