In Chapter 4 of Social Media: A Critical Introduction, Christian Fuchs explores the connections between Twitter and political participation. While reading, I started to think about the potential of repurposing aspects of Twitter to be geared more toward political activism and change. Fuchs states that, on Twitter, the topics that attain the highest visibility (as demonstrated by the Trending Box on the left-hand side of Twitter) are those that pertain to entertainment-related topics. However, I started to explore the idea of tailoring Twitter to be used as a political tool. For example, the Trending Box could be separated into subcategories, including Entertainment and Politics. This would allow for higher visibility within each category, therefore preventing the domination of visibility of one category over another, therefore facilitating political visibility within the interface of Twitter itself.
Later, Shirky states that “with the arrival of globally accessible publishing, freedom of speech is now freedom of the press, and freedom of the press is freedom of assembly (Shirky 2008, 172). This statement resonated with me because I began to think about both the benefits and downsides of online political culture. I see the value of social media in politics the same way as Papacharissi interprets it - the idea that social media eradicates the line between the political and public spheres. I think that a greater visibility from a grassroots level is key to political change. I also think that, at times, the anonymity offered by the internet is beneficial in terms of political participation. It allows one’s voice to be heard, without suffering social repercussions from their peers or even an oppressive government. However, one downside to online political participation is that in person, physical spaces allow for an agglomeration of individuals that “provide opportunities for building and maintaining interpersonal relations that involve eye contact, communication of an emotional aura, and bonding activities that are important for the cohesion of a political movement and can hardly be connunicated over the internet” (186). So, at the end of the day, there are certain shortcomings of online participation that simply cannot be overcome or overshadowed by in-person, face-to-face, political movements.