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Study Shows That Attacking Other Politicians On Social Media Platforms Leads To Internet Fame

A research conducted by the University of Cambridge in collaboration with the New York University reveals the key to vital success factor for social media virality: attack a politician online.

I ask our readers to allow this author a rare moment of candor: if you honestly needed the University of Cambridge to convey this sentiment, I'd question how deep the rock you've been living under is. At any rate, based on the likes of Donald Trump and his endless escapades across social media platforms, the fact that attacking other politicians gets your content viral is a poorly kept secret. It's no news to anyone that much of Trump's online campaigning consisted of egregious lies, piled up next to unfounded claims about his opponents. While many readers may also be questioning this article's decision to hone in on Trump, it's all too relevant to the topic at hand. For better or worse, it was Donald Trump's online Twitter-based campaign that garnered such a large number of followers.

The University of Cambridge and New York University established some simple parameters for themselves. They scrolled across and analyzed over 2.7 million separate posts across social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. The posts were acquired from the likes of news outlets and Congressmen, and from within the time period of 2016-2020. The data also chose to include how often such posts mention groups considered to be part of a specific ideology. Therefore, more generic attacks aimed at the "conservatives" or "liberals" were included in the lexicon of attacking politicians. With all of that established, let's discuss results.

Posts that attacked politicians were shown to be 67% more likely to be shared by individuals. To put this into more clear-cut terms, it seems that many individuals online are interested in either creating or actively telegraphing dramatic online events. On a slightly brighter note, this also potentially conveys how aware our current climate is of political events. Due to the expansive nature of the internet, even young individuals are, to some extent, aware of political events and the like in their geographical circles. No longer is "reading the news" a hobby gatekept by adults. Now, everyone's involved.

However, ultimately all such behavior lends itself to the ever-infamous adage: "no press is bad press". Despite the intensely negative coverage Donald Trump received, he also got more popular for it by the second. This has let to an incredibly toxic political climate online, where the relevance of one's policies and stances take a backseat to how much controversy they generate. The political game is an online reality show, and I'm sure this is definitely for the worse.


Photo: Hiroshi Watanabe/ Getty Images

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