Election in the Digital Age

All of the ten initial Co-Presidential candidates created a Facebook page dedicated to their campaign, and the six pairs who made it through the first round of voting all created Facebook pages less than 24 hours after they were officially allowed to announce their candidacy on Monday at 12:01 a.m. These Facebook pages have filled quickly with photos of the candidates, drafts of platforms and statements of support from friends.

“This campaign is really about making yourself a presence either on students’ computers or in their lives. On Facebook, it’s visual. You have to make sure that people see you and that you don’t suffocate them with text,” said Andrew Zheng ’15, who is running for Co-President with Kinsey Yost ’15.

Yost and Zheng have posted 12 campaign posters to their Facebook page throughout the 12-day campaign period, including a black and white “Academy of Cards” poster, playing on “House of Cards,” a popular Netflix television show.

The decision to restrict when pairs were allowed to publicly announce their candidacy was made in part because of the greater influence of social media in this campaigning season, according to Paul Murphy, Dean of Students. In prior years, candidates were allowed to announce their intent to run on Facebook several weeks before the elections.

“Some people were tempted to start campaigning in January, and that’s not what we want people to be thinking about. It makes the whole group, the whole candidate pool a little crazy,” Murphy said.

Despite having less than a week to campaign before the first round of voting, candidates have taken advantage of social media to get their messages across. Corinne Singer ’15 and Juan Pablo Villarreal ’15 even made an account on Instagram, (@straightshooting).

“I suppose it’s because I’m a photographer that one of the first things I considered in running is how are we going to appeal aesthetically, how are we going to advance in the eyes of the student body, if not through social media. We understood that immediately as one of the most essential ways and try to separate ourselves from the other candidate pairs,” said Singer.

Aside from advertising the visual component, candidates have also been using social media to actively spread their campaign platforms. Carter Page ’15 and Hanover Vale ’15 uploaded a six-page “unabridged platform,” complete with a title page to their Facebook page on Monday night via DropBox.

“We’ve been using Facebook as a resource guide while we’re talking to people. While getting signatures, we can’t sit down and explain every single idea. So we give people the main idea and say, ‘Go to the Facebook page and see our thoughts fleshed out,” said Page.

Tessa Peterson ’15 who is running with Sina Golkari ’15 said, “[Facebook] is an integrated place where most everything about our campaign can be found and vocalized on our Facebook page. It really lets people see all of us in one spot.”

Peterson and Golkari posted brief profiles on Facebook. “We did it with a little instagram flair and #mancrushmonday and #womancrushwednesday, just to sort of show people that we aren’t poster people. It’s a good way to get people to see that there are two humans behind our platform,” said Golkari.

Rebecca Somer ’15 and David Gutierrez ’15 have also used Facebook to publish additional information about themselves and promote their slogan: “Real Life. Real People.”

“We have tons of faults and we’ve posted about them, our struggles, on our Facebook page and that’s what really sets us apart,” said Somer. “We want the student body to see that we’re just average student body members, struggles and all, who have a passion for helping our community,” wrote Somer in an email to _The Phillipian_.

Perhaps because of the expanded presence of social media in this election season, some candidates, such as Arthur Doran ’15 and Antonia Leggett ’15 are finding greater value in simply talking to people.

“The use of Facebook, that’s almost just a base level that everybody has. They have the page, they post their platforms on the Facebook page, they post their posters and some cute pictures of the pair,” said Leggett. “Being able to talk to people and going out of your way to speak to as many people as possible…. that’s the core of our campaigning. The Facebook is just a default.”