Obama’s Facebook reflects new politics

“In the past, all a King had to do was look respectable in uniform and not fall off his horse. Now we must invade people’s homes and ingratiate ourselves with them…We’ve become actors!” said English actor Michael Gambon, in his role as King George V in the 2010 Academy Award-winning movie, The King’s Speech.

As Gambon showed in his speech, being respectable in the eyes of the elites is no longer enough to sustain the popularity of world leaders. Whether they like it or not, politicians have no choice but to plunge themselves into the fickle exchange with voters that is the world of social media, in order to reach out to aging millennials and teens, catching their attention and gaining their support online before a real campaign begins.

With this new landscape, it is not surprising to see that just a few weeks ago, President Obama promoted his own personal Facebook page, saying he hopes it will be a “place where we can have real conversations about the most important issues facing our country – a place where you can hear directly from me, and share your own thoughts and stories. (You can expect some just-for-fun stuff, too.)”

Discussing issues from the refugee crisis to climate change, Obama’s Facebook page is, on the surface level, defined as a place for the president to flesh out his stance on various topics. This is meant to offer Americans a chance to delve into his beliefs, and help them to understand why he reacts to certain issues the way he does. Overall, it gives a human side to a figure who may otherwise lack that type of exposure.

However, one must look further than a Facebook feed to generate a critical and thorough understanding of the president’s policy. While a politician’s online persona can be informative, it lacks a broad perspective and only gives a slight overview. A Twitter feed is not a critical news source, and a Facebook page is not a journal article.

Living in the midst of an era where the need for information comes at a higher speed than ever before, political figures in the social media sphere allow us to see them on our level. The way they communicate within these mediums can also reveal new aspects of our leaders and representatives.

Nevertheless, we must not let ourselves fall under the illusion that what we see online is the truth. These posts encourage us to look deeper into issues, but it is still our responsibility to research them and form an educated stance.

At the very least, we should not be like lemmings, running blindly off a cliff.

Sam Pattinasare ’17 (pattin1@stolaf.edu) is from Jakarta, Indonesia. He majors in political science and asian studies.