Politics on social media – what's it all about?
From the US presidential election, women's reproductive rights and sexual assault to LGBTQ rights, Brexit and #BlackLivesMatter, social media users will be well-accustomed the the torrent of Instagram posts, thought-provoking Facebook videos, memes and Tweets shedding light on celebrities, family and friends' opinions on a plethora of social topics.
And, yes, while you might scroll through your newsfeed, pausing occasionally to click on a link relating to Trump's offensive Tweets or 'like' a shared news post to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement, what you don't know is that social media is having more impact on your political, ethical, religious and basic human principles than you might have previously thought, according to new research.
In a report from the nonpartisan American 'fact tank', Pew Research Centre, researchers found that 20 per cent of social media users changed their stance on a political or social issue because of something they saw posted on social media.
Meanwhile, '17 per cent say social media has helped to change their views about a specific political candidate', reads the report.
'Among social media users, Democrats – and liberal Democrats in particular – are a bit more likely than Republicans to say they have ever modified their views on a social or political issue, or on a particular political candidate, because of something they saw on social media.'
The research involved collating polled responses from people who said that they modified their stance on individual candidates, with nearly 20 per cent mentioning Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, while 10 per cent mentioned former Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders.
In addition to answering whether they had changed their minds due to social media, participants were also asked to explain a recent time in which they modified their stance because of a post or image they had seen online.
'I thought Donald Trump was leaning one way on an issue and a friend posted something that was opposite of what I believe. This caused me to think less of him than I once I did,' revealed one volunteer.
'I saw a video on Reddit … that ultimately swayed me from voting independent in this election to voting for Hillary Clinton.'
Interestingly, people who admitted to changing their minds on political candidates revealed that they did so because 'social media pointed their opinion in a more negative direction'.
For example, those who changed their stance on Clinton were 'more than three times as likely to say that their opinion changed in a negative direction rather than a positive one'. And respondents who spoke of Trump were found to be 'nearly five times as likely to say that their opinion became more negative'.
Research also found that 13 per cent of participants users who have changed their minds about a 'political or social issue' spoke of race, police brutality or the Black Lives Matter movement.
One user said:
'Black lives matter vs. All lives matter: I'm white. Initially, I saw nothing wrong with saying 'All lives matter' – because all lives do matter. Through social media I've seen many explanations of why that statement is actually dismissive of the current problem of black lives seeming to matter less than others and my views have changed.'
However, while sharing posts on social media might trigger an emotional, political or intellectual change of heart, the research found that 79 per cent of social media users admitted to never having changed their minds on a social or political issue because of what they saw on social media.
Okay, so one post on the benefits of voting for Hillary Clinton probably won't sway a die-hard Trump supporter.
However, the more people who give reasons for their support for particular candidates on social media, share detailed information relating to news topics that might be skewed or surrounded in confusion in order to help educate others in society and develop a healthy discussion about politics, rights and justice, the better informed, well-rounded and intellectual society we will be.
Politically-infused posts on social media might be annoying but if it helps keep Trump away from the White House, we're all for it.