We live in a world in which the information we share through social media networks is not only real, but can also be imaginary.Juan Antonio Palacios Escobar, Former Mayor of Algeciras
I remember it as if it were yesterday, that day on June, 15th, 1977; it was the first time I attended the polls to elect the representatives in Congress and the Senate. It has been more than four decades – almost 42 years –, and as a candidate, or forming part of campaign committees or directing them, I have had many political experiences.
Throughout this time, I have witnessed general, municipal, autonomous and European elections. During the democratic transition we were hungry for freedom and filled the auditoriums, the football stadiums and bull rings where political rallies were held.
Things have since changed, and internet and social media networks have been incorporated into the political discourse.
We get to know the candidates, their programs, meetings, debates, hobbies and profiles through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and other digital platforms.
No self-respecting political organisation lacks a good team specialised in social media networks that keeps its affiliates, militants, supporters, voters and the general public informed.
There is therefore, no doubt of the potential that these social networks have in setting positive initiatives in motion that contribute to greater and better electoral and political information.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good and, also true as in many other aspects of our lives that social networks can create a dangerous path for the heartless and the scoundrels, although now, with a wider reach.
There are those who take advantage of an electoral process, flood their followers with false news, hoaxes and excesses.
What any public figure expresses, by any means whatsoever, must be determined by freedom of expression and respect for one’s own dignity and that of others. Therefore, as users of social media networks, we must be careful about what we say and transmit.
We must not come to premature decisions focusing only on the headlines without reading everything and delving carefully into what is written, as it may not be the reflection of reality but something totally fabricated by cowardly and miserable people who hide their identity and do not give particulars of what they say has happened.
Over the last decade, the role played by social media in electoral campaigns has increased, but there are three errors no politician who prides him or her selves as an honest person should commit: communicate with citizens only through social media, considering a social media channel as an objective in itself, rather than as a valuable tool –when used correctly –,but failing to establish personal contacts with the man or woman in the street.
We live in a world in which the information we share through social media networks is not only real, but can also be imaginary. If we do not regulate this circulation of people and content, we will end with a feeling of personal and collective helplessness.
This regulation must start with the companies that exploit the different portals and search engines. As such, Whatsapp has recently limited its possibilities of forwarding to five senders, instead of 20, as a way to combat fake news.
We can, at any given moment, alert or reassure, make a big mess out of an insignificant thing or silence something really serious.
Silence the wolves or give voice to the sheep. Let’s us act responsibly.