How useful was social media for the Turkish elections?
I’ve written before the elections that main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) presidential candidate Muharrem İnce dominating social media would probably not translate into a victory in the June 24 elections. I stressed that the followers of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by and large are not social media users. Therefore, they cannot make their voices heard on social media outlets.
A recent research that I came across points out to another fact: Even if Erdoğan’s followers were on social media, the posts that İnce’s followers shared would not be seen by them.
It relieves us all to tweet about politics. It makes us feel as though we are doing something for our future and the future of our country.
But, according to Olivia Goldhill of Quartz Media, regardless of how persuasive or amusing your tweets are, chances are they’re unlikely to be well-received by anyone who doesn’t agree with you already. A study of more than half a million tweets, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that morally outraged tweets tend to be widely retweeted within their political spheres — but rarely escape their bubbles.
Researchers, led by psychologist William Brady at New York University, started by analyzing the language used in 563,312 tweets about three controversial topics: Gun control, same-sex marriage, and climate change. They sorted the tweets according to their use of moral language (e.g. the word “duty”), emotional language (e.g. “fear”) and language that’s both moral and emotional (e.g. “hate”). Tweets that were strictly moral or purely emotional didn’t have higher numbers of retweets, but the researchers found a 20 percent increase in retweets per moral-emotional word added.
Next, the researchers looked at how much of this sharing happened within ideological networks. They estimated the ideological bent of each tweeter using an algorithm that measures political persuasion based on follower networks. For each tweet, they computed the number of retweets from those with the same ideology as the author, versus those with a different ideology. Overall, they found far more in-group than out-group retweets for messages about gun control and climate change. (Findings for same-sex marriage tweets were tending in the same direction, but not statistically significant.)
The same findings would be true for Turkish users as well. We all want to see and feel that all the people around us share the same thoughts and emotions as we do. This makes us happy but also makes us blind toward other views and emotions.
Therefore, an İnce follower would think that all of Turkey thinks exactly the same as her. That’s why she would never understand the results of the elections.
This is a sad aspect of social media. It makes us happy but dull. We can only see people who are like us when indeed what we need is people who think differently to grow as people.