Gary Condoseres has a quiet chuckle over how the Left may have won the meme battle against the Right leading up to the 2013 Federal Election, and yet still lost the war…
So, the nine-month election campaign has finally come to a close.
The Prime Ministership has been decided, the campaign ads can stop, and my Facebook wall can cease to be clogged up with slogans about Tony Abbott hating women, how the NBN will explode under a Coalition government, and that Australia will be sent back into the dark ages by electing a man who is unpopular with people who weren’t going to support him anyway.
If you can find it in you to forgive my right-leaning cynicism for a moment, I’d like to pause to consider the role that online social media played, or in my case, didn’t play in the latest election results. A number of people close to me, from a variety of political viewpoints, have commented to me that if their Facebook walls were to be believed, Tony Abbott and the Coalition would have been struggling to win a single seat, let alone over ninety.
And yet across the country the swing against Labor has been clearly seen, and often in places other than where it was expected.
I’m not suggesting there weren’t anti-Labor posts. There are people out there who think they can swing the tide of an election with a three-sentence internet meme on either side of politics.
But there’s no denying that the pro-Labor, or perhaps more accurately the anti-Abbott, posts appeared in far more abundance.
These days, for many of us Facebook is as much a part of our culture as television. We use it to socialise, to stay informed and to entertain.
Given this, how did a network so ingrained in our social lives get it so completely wrong?
Well, of course, Facebook itself did nothing. It just acts as a medium for its subscribers. The same goes for Twitter, Instagram or whichever other platform you prefer.
So, how do we interpret the clear discrepancy between the mood on social media and the eventual election result?
It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that it’s a demographic distinction. That somehow being a Facebook user and being opposed to the Coalition are both the realm of young city dwellers. But the facts don’t stack up against that idea at all. While us young(ish) city dwellers are all on Facebook, these days so are our mothers. And so are our fathers, high school teachers, grandparents and embarrassing uncles. But none of them seemed motivated to choose the worst possible pictures they could of Kevin Rudd, and then superimpose an overly-simplistic misrepresentation of party policy, perhaps backed up with an out-of-context quote from someone else in the Labor party and then post it all over other people’s newsfeeds.
Is there something inherent to the left side of politics that makes three-line Internet memes seem like a socially responsible way to engage in political debate? Perhaps it’s the same force that compels us righties to write smug articles about it instead, safe on the other side of an election victory. I’m not sure either way. And is anyone likely to have his/her vote swayed by the number of likes on an Internet meme? The whole practice seems a little self-indulgent to me.
But I guess the whole world of politics – on both sides – seems just as self-indulgent, so maybe it’s a case of art imitating life.
At least it’s all over now.
Now I can safely open my Facebook account to see the usual pictures of other people’s babies, meals and travel plans.
The way it should be.