How the Internet is Being Used to Help People Become More Engaged

How the Internet is Being Used to Help People Become More Engaged

23 September 2014

Love it or hate it - If there is one thing that can be said about the internet, it is that we are all now more connected than ever before.

The evolution of technology has allowed us to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, to follow news headlines as they happen and access information at the fastest rate possible.

It has also had a huge impact on the way that people become involved in civic engagement - how they interact with those who are in power.

Pew Study on Civic Engagement in the Digital Age reported that 48% of 18-to-29 year olds decided to learn more about political or social issues because of what they read on social networking sites. 57% engage in political activity on social networking sites and nowhere else.

Getting involved has never been more exciting or more fun. Through apps and social media, people can really make their voice heard. They can join in campaigns, communicate with leaders directly and watch as the results become a reality.

There has been a big leap in the number of social networking site users who comment on issues and follow political candidates. Many even say that their involvement on social networks has prompted them to take action where they may not have done otherwise.

While there has always been a division between educational attainment and political engagement, the trend appears to be more moderate on social networking sites, with people from all backgrounds and income levels taking a stand on the issues that mean the most to them.

According to the study, 39% of adults take part in some political activity on Facebook or Twitter. Younger adults are as likely as older adults to be involved on social networking sites, showing very little disparity between different generations.

In 2008, 11% of social networking site users said that they used these sites to post political news for others to read. In 2012, 28% of SNS users (representing 17% of all adults) said they posted links to political stories or articles and 33% (representing 19% of all adults) said they posted other types of political content on these sites. 

43% of social networking site users say they have decided to learn more about a political or social issue because of something they read about on a social networking site.

18% of social networking site users say they have decided to take action involving a political or social issue because of something they read on those sites.

In America, some governments in particular are leading the way with their technological civic engagement efforts.

The hurricane in New Orleans was one example where government agencies demonstrated how far they had come in using new technologies to respond to disasters. Social media was used before, during and after Hurricane Sandy made landfall to communicate with the public and response workers. The public were able to receive updates and arrange assistance, while community groups and relief agencies used the information to coordinate their response.

Following the hurricane, the city opened its government to enable residents to their say in the rebuild. On demand access to public meetings was streamed via media technology and within 30 days they had grossed more than 12,000 live views.

The White House, in its endeavours to be the most open administration in history, offers users the White House Social Hub, a one stop shop to all of their social networking channels. Google Plus hangouts have included conversations with Obama, Vice President Biden and the First Lady.

This generation is forcing those in power to be innovative in the way that they listen to and communicate with their citizens. It is also encouraging citizens to interact more, to put their feelings across and to engage on a level that has not been seen before.

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