We live in an era today where practically everyone is “famous.” It’s not just reality stars anymore; anyone can have their own blog at no cost, and use social media for free, where their every word and photo is broadcast to the entire world. Activists all across the spectrum have taken to these platforms, utilizing them to influence politics. If that is where the younger generations are hanging out, it makes sense to reach out to them there. Organizations like Americans for Prosperity were ahead of the curve several years ago, encouraging and teaching activists on the right how to use the “new media” successfully.
Facebook opened up access to the general public in 2008, no longer limiting the platform to only college students. Conservative activists eagerly added as many friends as allowed by Facebook, 5,000. Then came the rise of the “selfie,” as everyone acquired smartphones that automatically came equipped with cameras. The younger generations have grown up with all the very public social media and selfies as a normal part of life, which can be disconcerting to those of us in Generation X and older.
“Facebook has really been around the whole time Generation Y was growing up and they see it more as a tool for communication,” lead researcher Shaun W. Davenport, chair of management and entrepreneurship at High Point University, found. “They use it like other generations use the telephone … For older adults who didn’t grow up using Facebook, it takes more intentional motives [to use it], like narcissism.”
The dilemma for political activists can be summarized like this: How many photos and posts about yourself are necessary to create interest in your activism - hence influencing people politically - and when does it cross over the line into narcissism? Studies have revealed a correlation between excessive social media use and narcissism. Of course, these studies were performed on the general populace and did not consider political activists.
How can a political activist use social media to their advantage, yet not get labeled a narcissist? There are ways you can distinguish yourself from the social media narcissists. Put up
People like to hear some personal details about others; they just don’t want to hear every single detail. A few personal details increases interest in what you are posting, because it gives people an opportunity to relate to you on a human level. There are ways you can accomplish this without talking about yourself constantly. One method, which I use, is to post photos and information about my cat frequently. It’s not really about me, but it’s close enough that it sparks human interest.
YouTube also seems narcissistic, with people posting videos of themselves. But the reality is, it is incredibly effective. The younger generation is now more likely to recognize a YouTube star than they are an actor from Hollywood! Colion Noir, who was a virtually unknown black “urban gun enthusiast,” started making no-nonsense, humorous short videos about the Second Amendment. In just a couple of years, the videos went viral, receiving millions of views. The NRA discovered him and hired him as a news commentator. Now he’s one of the most influential Second Amendment commentators in the country - and all because of YouTube. YouTube has become a great venue for conservatives to work around the biased Hollywood elites to become influential performers.
Many in the older generations may be uncomfortable with all the posts and photos, but they are incredibly effective. Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, who is part of Generation X, has figured out this balance more effectively than probably anyone on the right. She tweets frequently, but her tweets are mostly witty political updates. She posts plenty of photos, but few of herself. I have never heard anyone call her a narcissist. Her strategy is working, because she has over 1.5 million likes on Facebook and 745,000 followers on Twitter. Conservatives would be wise to emulate her. It may seem time consuming, but how hard is it really to post a couple of tweets while standing in a line for groceries, instead of scanning the vapid newsstand magazines next to you? Applications like Newsify, which provide instant, updated news headlines to your smartphone, make this possible.
Of course, part of the reason the older generations are wary of social media is because one careless post, hastily made in a few seconds while distracted, tired, or otherwise not fully paying attention, can destroy one’s career or reputation forever. Social media seems so cozy and fun, done from home or your smartphone virtually anywhere. But the reality is, anything you post should be done while keeping this rule in mind: Would you be OK if your post was front-page news on The New York Times tomorrow?
Admittedly, I still can’t get into Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat and some of the other social media programs popular with the younger generations. As someone who prefers reading over video, it is difficult to adjust to mostly photos. And that is where younger conservatives can come in and pick up the slack.