Face to face(book): Social media, political campaigning and the unbearable lightness of being there

Karen Ross, Tobias Bürger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


It is undoubtedly true that social media such as Facebook and Twitter are influencing the ways in which politicians engage the public, no longer hostage to the gatekeeping proclivities of traditional media, but now able to broadcast their messages to anyone who wants to hear them. On the public’s side, we can now follow politicians who are on Twitter or have a Facebook fan page, comment on their tweets and posts, and send them messages directly. So far, so democratic. But how many of us actually do more than just read posts and tweets and how many politicians do more than just inform us about their activities? Crucially, do politicians use social media in ways that enhance opportunities for dialogue between them and us? To explore these questions further in relation to politicians’ Facebook behaviours, we interviewed New Zealand Members of Parliament about their motivations for using social media and their attitudes on such media’s effectiveness as a political communication tool in the context of a general election campaign. Our findings suggest that despite their talk of citizen engagement, most politicians use social media as means of distributing information (one-way flow) and to make themselves both visible and ‘hip’ to the public. While cautiously optimistic about the role of social media in the lives of citizens, Members of Parliament also suggest that social media must be complementary to, and thus incorporated in, a broad-based communications strategy, rather than be seen as a replacement for traditional campaign activities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-62
JournalPolitical Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


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