By now it’s not news that Election 2012 will go down as the “Social Media Election.” This means it must be the end of the “television elections,” which started in 1960 when 70 million people tuned in to watch John F Kennedy debate Richard Nixon. But could it be that Election 2012 is also the end of the social media elections? This is the conclusion of none other than Marc Andreessen, who put on his prognosticator hat to predict that by the time 2016 rolls around social media will be old and possibly over. Something new and unimagined is bound to come along and change the way we conduct political happenings, says Andreessen. For now it’s just a guessing game as to what the new “thing” might be. Twitter and Facebook which were relatively new in 2008 have both matured along with their user base to the point that they just are. By 2016 or 2018 or 2020, these could be old hat with other new beginnings taking their place in the election landscape.
For now, Pew reports indicate that social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest are heavily used for civic engagement. And it’s not just people discussing politics. Candidates have also taken to social media to get out their messages. Statistics show that while Barack Obama tended to communicate with words on social media, Mitt Romney used images. While the candidates’ social media messages illustrated the economy as a priority, their supporters on social media also included immigration, women, healthcare and veterans among the top issues. Meanwhile, at any given moment a word or phrase such as “binders of women” or “horses and bayonets” could send the Twitterverse into a frenzy because social media reactions are instantaneous. Still, it’s worth noting that television is not really “over” as more than 65 million people watched each debate before turning to Twitter and Facebook.