Analysis of the ‘Brexit’ twitterstorm

Social media is a major part of modern day communication which affects our lives as well as society on a regular basis with most people today having a: Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat or other form of online social media account. A key example of this is Twitter and the concept of a ‘twitterstorm’ specifically in this case the ‘twitterstorms’ that have surrounded the United Kingdom’s EU (European Union) membership. According to www.technopedia.com the definition of a ‘twitterstorm’ is ‘a sudden spike in activity surrounding a certain topic on the Twitter social media site.’ The topic of the EU referendum is a clear sign of this as leading up to the referendum the topic was trending all over Twitter and many other ‘twitterstorms’ have been created following the start of Britain’s removal from the EU showing how it has and continues to affect us and impact on society.

Undeniably a clear example of a ‘twitterstorm’ like ‘Brexit’ affecting our everyday lives in a major way is in the way we now communicate. This is due to how the internet holds an endless amount of information that can be shared all over the world which is alluded to in James Curran and Jean Seatons book ‘Power without Responsibility.’ In this Curran and Seaton state ‘the internet offers a wider gateway into the world of information, it enables a retrieval from a vast storehouse of information as well as real time interaction with others.’ This links to ‘Brexit’ as it shows how on Twitter many were not only able to research information about the referendum but then share and communicate their opinion to others in real time conversation all over the world. An example of this is seen on www.gloucesterlive.co.uk with their cover of pop singer Lilly Allen’s actions on Twitter following Theresa May triggering article 50 and beginning Britain’s exit from the EU. Allen tweeted ‘Dear EU, if you’re reading this it’s too late’ and also shared images that argued against leaving the EU, she received various backlash with many debating the topic with her such as stating she was ‘scaremongering’. This reinforces Currans and Seatons point as Allen has not only gained her opinion on ‘Brexit’ through the internet and other forms of media but through social media has also been able to create a ‘twitterstorm’ about the issue sharing her opinions to the entire world. Furthermore the way this has affected others is it allows them to either agree or argue against her without coming face to face with the singer herself, bringing celebrities and the public together. This is seen when she was called out by Matt Eastwood who said ‘Oh look Silly Allen popping up again, let’s do the positive thing and scaremonger’. Moreover, Allen was then able to reply with her own tweet allowing everyone to see the two sides of the debate. This shows how social media has impacted our society as it has changed the way people communicate, now regular people can debate real political issues with celebrities over twitter and both opinions can be shared all over the internet therefor influencing others to agree or disagree with the views that are expressed.

Nevertheless, there are much bigger ways that the ‘twitterstorms’ surrounding the EU referendum are an example of how social media affects our lives and society in general. According to www.cityam.com ‘The top hashtags related to the referendum are #Brexit, #VoteLeave, and #VoteRemain’ from following each hashtag audiences would find arguments from politicians and other members of the public supporting whichever campaign the hashtag linked too. This is due to social media becoming a major and necessary platform for political parties to promote their ideas and opinions to their audience ahead of a vote so they can win. This idea of media institutions (in this case political campaigns) needing their audience to help themselves is seen in Paul Long and Tim Walls book ‘Media studies’. ‘Audiences are more than a concept and media institutions therefore depend on upon the actual individuals that make up the audience’. The book goes on to put forward ideas by John Hartley that state. ‘Media institutions don’t just determine and order audiences by their operations but are obliged not only to speak to an audience but crucially for them’. This is supported by the actions of the Leave and Remain campaigns as thanks to creating ‘twitterstorms’ by using various hashtags and images they were able to talk for and to their audience in a clear and global way, subsequently promoting their individual campaigns and gaining more voters in the process. Alternatively, this may not mean that social media impacts our lives as much as we may think. According to Graeme Burton in the book ‘Media and Society’ although he states the internet offers ‘bulletin boards and chat rooms attached to political websites that offer discussion space for Net-connected and Net-literate.’ Burton goes on to talk about how ‘this does not include all citizens and it does not much affect the conduct of conventional politics’. Despite these claims a clear example that using social media platforms like Twitter in this case actually affected the final vote (and from there our society and everyday lives) comes from a statement from Dr Clare Llewellyn who stated while studying Twitter prior to the referendum. “It’s difficult to tell how important Twitter will be until the vote comes in,  Leave were initially stronger as they had the “machinery” there from the outset in the form of people who had already largely been tweeting about Brexit (think Nigel Farage).” As well as this she also claimed ‘both campaigns have been using the platform heavily, but Remain is still playing catch-up.’ These statements combined with the fact the Leave campaign eventually won the vote show one cannot ignore how the use of: Twitter, ‘twitterstorms’ and social media in general affected: the promotion of both campaigns, the result of the vote and consequently our society.

Additionally, a key way in which the ‘twitterstorms’ regarding the EU referendum show how social media affects us on a daily basis is through the information social media sites such as Twitter allow us to see. Seen on www.pol.ed.ac.uk social media was being used to monitor on going shifts and changes in opinions before the vote and created a prediction for the final result. ‘The percentages are calculated from the hashtags used to gather the set which were for leaving or remaining in the EU.’ The results showed that 86% of hashtags were for leaving the EU showing how social media and in this case specifically Twitter has affected our everyday lives as our actions on these websites allows us to predict the results of major political votes. Additionally, according to www.referendumanalysis.eu they saw that ‘on Twitter, the Leave camp outnumbers the Remain camp 7 to 1.’ The analysis continues to say ‘remain supporters chose to ignore the voice of the Internet as something that has no connection with the real political world.’ This supports both the claims that social media in this case certainly has affected our society but also our everyday lives as it now allows us to view much more information and patterns regarding various issues and debates through the way people use websites like Twitter. It also shows how social media affected the way people acted during the run up to the vote as it encouraged many remain supporters to spread the message on social media and alternatively influenced some leave supporters to simply ignore social media altogether. Furthermore it also allows people to reflect and analyse political votes in this case showing a major reason why the Remain campaign lost the vote and allows this information to be spread across the internet influencing the way people may act in the future.

In conclusion, one cannot argue against the fact that the the various ‘twitterstorms’ surrounding Britain’s 2016 EU referendum show how social media has affected our everyday lives, the way we communicate and our society in general. It allows members of the public to gain and share their opinions around the world and debate them with whoever they wish (such as celebrities like Lilly Allen) in open view for everyone to see. This subsequently creates information that will influence more people and allow more open discussion showing a change in the way we communicate with each other and how social media influences our lives on a daily basis. In addition to this the way social media can influence various people can factor into major changes in our society seen by the role social media played in both the Leave and Remain campaigns that eventually led to the success of the Leave campaign and Britain leaving the EU. Unarguably the information shared by politicians such as Nigel Farage as well as other supporters of the Leave campaign partly led to its success, therefor showing how social media has changed the way our society communicates, is influenced and consequently how this has led to major changes in society itself.

Bibliography

‘a sudden spike in activity surrounding a certain topic on the Twitter social media site.’ “What Is A Twitterstorm? – Definition From Techopedia”. Techopedia.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.
‘the internet offers a wider gateway into the world of information, it enables a retrieval from a vast storehouse of information as well as real time interaction with others.’ Curran, James, and Jean Seaton. Power Without Responsibility. 1st ed. [Place of publication not identified]: Routledge, 2015. Print.
‘Dear EU, if you’re reading this it’s too late’ “Lily Allen In String Of Anti-Brexit Tweets”. Gloucestershire Live. N.p., 2017. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.
‘Oh look Silly Allen popping up again, let’s do the positive thing and scaremonger’. “Matt Eastwood On Twitter”. Twitter. N.p., 2017. Web. 17 Apr. 2017.
‘The top hashtags related to the referendum are #Brexit, #VoteLeave, and #VoteRemain’ Barber, Lynsey. “Here’s Who’s Winning The EU Referendum On Twitter”. Cityam.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
‘Audiences are more than a concept and media institutions therefore depend on upon the actual individuals that make up the audience’. Long, Paul, and Tim Wall. Media Studies. 1st ed. Routledge, 2014. Print.
‘Media institutions don’t just determine and order audiences by their operations but are obliged not only to speak to an audience but crucially for them’. Long, Paul, and Tim Wall. Media Studies. 1st ed. Routledge, 2014. Print.
‘bulletin boards and chat rooms attached to political websites that offer discussion space for Net-connected and Net-literate.’ Burton, Graeme. Media And Society. 1st ed. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2010. Print.
‘this does not include all citizens and it does not much affect the conduct of conventional politics’. Burton, Graeme. Media And Society. 1st ed. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2010. Print.
‘It’s difficult to tell how important Twitter will be until the vote comes in,  Leave were initially stronger as they had the “machinery” there from the outset in the form of people who had already largely been tweeting about Brexit (think Nigel Farage).’ Nickerson, James. “What’s The Role Of Social Media In The EU Referendum?”. Cityam.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
‘both campaigns have been using the platform heavily, but Remain is still playing catch-up.’ Nickerson, James. “What’s The Role Of Social Media In The EU Referendum?”. Cityam.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
‘The percentages are calculated from the hashtags used to gather the set which were for leaving or remaining in the EU.’ “Twitter Analysis”. Pol.ed.ac.uk. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
‘on Twitter, the Leave camp outnumbers the Remain camp 7 to 1.’ “Impact Of Social Media On The Outcome Of The EU Referendum”. EU Referendum Analysis 2016. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
‘remain supporters chose to ignore the voice of the Internet as something that has no connection with the real political world.’                        “Impact Of Social Media On The Outcome Of The EU Referendum”. EU Referendum Analysis 2016. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.

 

 

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