BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Thousands of Western New Yorkers are heading to polling places today, casting their ballots in this historic election. It’s historic for a few different reasons including the ways people are receiving information during this election.
“It’s definitely been a drastic difference since the last election,” said Kari Szymczak, voting in the 2016 election.
“Not everyone watches tv but everyone is on social media,” said Rebeckah Russell, a first-time voter.
From Facebook to Twitter and SnapChat – social media has become a new tool candidates and voters are turning to during this election.
“Candidates and campaigns are learning a lot about what’s effective, what isn’t and what drives the diffusion of messages across groups,” said Michael Stefanone, an associate professor at the University at Buffalo who teaches communications.
Since campaigning began about 18 months ago, Facebook reports there have been more than 5 billion posts, shares, likes, etc. about U.S. politics.
“It’s great because we can all discuss it more,” said Szymczak.
“Technology enables us to do things that we might not otherwise do,” warns Stefanone. “One of those things is comment online to news stories or other people’s stories that we wouldn’t do face to face.”
Some voters say, this election cycle, they learned more about their friends political views than every knew before; finding out, on social media.
“I [It] did bring their opinions about stuff that I didn’t know but I don’t judge,” said Russell.
Some social media sites are rolling out special features for election day. SnapChat is launching election filters while Facebook is allowing people to tell their friends they’re voting; Twitter has special emojis for certain hashtags.
“There’s a lot of social proof,” said the UB professor. “There are ways people can promote what they’re doing.”
“This is an election people are definitely voting for for a change,” said Szymczak. “I’m probably trying to sway them but I want people to vote and exercise their right and make their children and grandchildren proud. That’s why I’m out here today.”
As for if social media will actually pull more people to the polls – that’s unknown now but Stefanone says everyone is looking at that and studying the role this new tool has had on politics.