In our latest newsletter (you can, of course, subscribe here), we highlighted a recent post by Buzzfeed that offered some compelling advice to the Republican Party: if you want to stay in the online game, you need to stay positive. This was buttressed by an academic study that showed positive mews is shared much faster via social media than bad news. But is being upbeat merely a marketing strategy? Or is it an essential part of being a part of the wider public discourse?
Tech trend publication TechCrunch recently examined the loss of the political power of the US religious right as it is completely drowned out by opponents in the online debate over same-sex marriage. According to the author:
As the Internet becomes the hub of political dialogue, religious issues are being drowned out by the most powerful voices on the web, which overwhelming support marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose.
The piece argues that as the online and social space plays an increasingly important role in how the public debate on important issues are shaped, the core nature of the Internet will impact the outcome of public debates. In other words, the values the Internet was largely founded on – embracing free expression, positivity and a libertarian perspective – will profoundly impact the reach of particular points of view, specifically those that run counter to that perspective.
In the case of same sex marriage legislation in California, opponents were virtually invisible in the debate on social platforms like Twitter, despite the fact that wider public opinion also opposed granting equal rights to same sex couples. If one side is absent in a particular debate, it is natural that their reach and impact will be minimized, if not completely eroded.
This is an important concept for political parties and advocacy campaigns to consider. In some cases, a “negative” view is impossible to avoid: sometimes delivering bad news is necessary. But in terms of a general approach, taking a positive angle might be a requisite to be successful on the Internet.
Positivity, of course, comes in different forms. Change is often viewed as a positive. But how that change is positioned – one of making things better, as an example, rather than “throwing the bums out” could translate into a more successful approach online.