The potential of social media lies mainly in their support of civil society and the public sphere.
During the Presidential campaign of 2008, technology and its political impact were brought to a whole new arena. Not only did Obama optimise the ability to campaign through television with his paid-for 30 minute advert – but he also set a precedent in fundraising by collecting a record breaking amount of money: over $600 million through public financing collected over the internet. He ran as fierce an internet campaign as he did his television and radio campaigns.
- 2004 – Facebook was created by Mark Zuckerberg as a way to connect with fellow Harvard students. According to its initial public offering filing, it has grown to 845 million active users worldwide. If Facebook were a country it would be the third largest behind China and India.
- 2005 – Founded by Steve Chen and Chad Hurley, YouTube provides a forum for the distribution of video content – everything from cat videos to eyewitness videos of political protest.
- 2006 – Twitter was launched as a social networking and microblogging service that has grown to over 300 million users. It allows users to exchange photos, videos and messages in 140 characters or less.
Social media lowers traditional socio-economic barriers to commanding the spotlight. Social media can vault average citizens into our consciousness. Politicians, regimes and activists look to purposefully tap into the potential of social media. Text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the entire internet have given rise to a reservoir of political energy that posits a new relationship between the new media technologies, politics and public life. These digital technologies influence the formation and activities of civil society groups, mobs, movements and organisations.