The process of developing technologies began from the information age, fundamentally changing not only the life of a person, but also its essence. In the world of the latest technologies, with constant support of relations both at the local and international level, one of the main opportunities is the availability of information materials in the shortest possible time. The Internet is confidently gaining the right to be a universally recognized medium of mass communication and has a gradually increasing influence on the formation of the worldview of society. Curran, Fenton & Freedman (2012) wrote, В“Leading experts, politicians, public officials, business leaders and journalists predicted that the Internet would transform the worldВ” (p. 1). The society, as a living organism, forms new stereotypes of social consciousness. Thus, the Internet has acquired the role not only of a global information repository, but it has also become a means of mass communication.
The modern society uses information technologies in many spheres. It makes the development of the modern world different. Information technologies cover all areas of human activity. Behnke (2010) stated, В“The impacts and possibilities of social media and social networking are some of the most vigorously talked about topicsВ” (p. 7). The creation of the powerful information resources and developed information networks make the scientific contribution to social and spiritual innovations, as well as the mechanisms of social, cultural and political changes. Working with information and mastering the skills of applying modern technological systems become a priority in all spheres of functioning of the state and society. This applies not only to the natural and technical sciences, but also to the social and human ones, which develop a cognitive basis for the adoption of the state decisions and the development of a political strategy. Since the rapid spread of Internet technology, the number of Internet users has grown from several million to several billion. The Internet being a political tool is increasingly used not only as an information platform, but also as a means of various mass actions. Due to the development of the Internet, the society has access to a vast array of information to express its opinion and take collective actions. The political struggle of social movements, transferred to the network space, turns the Internet into a new horizontally organized space of power. The prospect of further development of the institutions of the civil society lies outside the institutions formed in the industrial era, but covers the possibility of building a dialogue with the new network autonomous social actors. This paper will discuss how the advent of social media has transformed politics of the US State Department for better taking into account the sense of this process for politicians and the society.
Influence of the Internet on the Politics
Digital means of communication includes the Internet, mobile communications, data storage, and transmission systems. Saabye (n.d.) stated, В“This new digital culture challenges power relations, authorities, the relations between users and institutions, and the separation of the private and public spheresВ”. The obvious cultural significance of digital communication cannot be ignored today. The spread changes of the community in the face of the information technologies affect the everyday life of people, established cultural hierarchies, the ways people interact with each other, and the world around them. Nowadays, information technologies are used not only by citizens who have creative and progressive purposes, but also by politicians to achieve political, economic, spiritual and military superiority.
Information technologies have a questionable impact on the modern politics. On the one hand, there is a positive dynamics of their impact on people and the society. Information technologies become useful for political actors because of the opportunity to carry out social, political and agitation activities that contain feedback mechanisms. Social networks attract the attention of politicians as an instrument of management of public consciousness and as a source of information confrontation. According to Final Plenary (2012), В“These media can empower the public in a way that is far faster, cheaper and more pervasive than other forms of communicationВ”. As the mechanisms of psychological impact on people through the social networks, there are grounds in the form of various situations and effects. These grounds encourage specific individuals or the public quickly to take decisions and actions that are beneficial for politicians. State bodies of several countries and the opposition are already using social networks as a means of manipulating public opinion. Thus, the social networks are used as a means of significant influence on a person. This method assumes direct communication with the user of the social network to receive or suggest the necessary information. On the other hand, people can watch negative tendencies which reflect both the complex nature of human interaction with new computer systems and attempts to apply their potential for the propaganda of violence and terrorism. Bilgen (2012) wrote, В“The mediaВ’s bias and obsession of sensationalism may help them get the upper hand in using mediaВ”. A range of new information threats are implemented with the help of a specially selected information system and aimed at destabilizing the society. In the political sphere, new opportunities arise to manipulate the public consciousness, the political attitudes and orientations of various social groups. Thus, technological achievements, their wide penetration and actual availability form a special worldview, where the modern politics is transformed to the virtual one with the help of the Internet technologies.
In spite of the fact that the consequences of the penetration of social networks into traditional models of relations in the field of politics are ambiguous and contradictory, there are a lot of examples of successful results of this process. According to Wihbey (2013), В“The debate continues about how social and digital media are changing politicsВ”). It is necessary to note that the use of social media by the US State Department is a bright example of such changes. The Internet technologies helps the US State Department to promote the formation of more perfect principles of interaction between the state and the society, which did not exist before, and strengthen personal information independence through electronic devices. Therefore, users are united around US ideology and politics by moving government websites to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, by creating personal accounts of the US government representatives on the Twitter platform, and also through mobile phones.
Caplan (2013) wrote, В“It has become an influential tool used to effectively target numerous sectors in American societyВ” (p. 5). Since 2009, the State Department has intensified its activities in the social networks of the Internet. Materials of the US administration are published daily and distributed on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The State Department gives users the opportunity to leave comments, participate in forums, read the news line and, finally, monitor WashingtonВ’s foreign policy. The State Department runs its own blog called Dipnote, which distributes newsletters to subscribers and provides news on a number of topics, video and photo galleries (Roberts 2009).. Also, the State Department supports a project called Co.Nx. According to the Office of Inspector General (2013), В“Videos of newly arriving ambassadors have helped make chiefs of mission accessible to broad publics in their country of assignmentВ” (p. 4). The idea of the project is to unite users around certain events such as conferences, global and local projects. The page of the US government, located on the Facebook and Twitter platforms, is one of the most notable projects. The US government website acquaints users with the official US position on various issues. The user can go to one of the specified platforms by typing the address America.Gov. Facebook includes the official journal of the US Department of State, through which official information and invitations are spread to participate in forums, and Twitter invites to subscribe to the SMS newsletter about the United States. Although such projects are not popular among users, the page of the State Department on the Facebook portal collects the largest numbers of subscribers, and their number is increasing, as the US government has caught the need of young users to receive information on any issue.
The forum participantsВ’ attention is attracted by information-slogan and information-appeal. The personal accounts of Washington officials who are created on the Twitter platform are the most popular. Stieglitz and Dang-Xuan (2012) wrote, В“Social media are increasingly used in political context recently В– both by citizens and political institutionsВ” (p. 1277). The number of subscribers to personal communications of officials is hundreds of times higher than the number of those ones to the official US government websites. American experts in the field of public diplomacy are confident that with the help of social networks it is possible to establish a dialogue between specific politicians and influential bloggers. Although the exchange of views with members of the US political establishment is conducted by a smaller portion of network users, the US government is the most active user among representatives of governments of other countries.
It is necessary to single out two key points that relate to the political potential of the Internet. On the one hand, citizens in the network space are less dependent on policy subjects and their information guides; they are more independent in collecting, organizing and circulating information. Meinardus (2003) wrote, В“The media have the crucial function of disseminating information to the citizensВ”. The so-called virus editor created by users and thanks to which relevant topics are raised allows people not only to sort the information, but also analyze its various sources, form and express their own opinions. On the other hand, the Internet technologies and technological capabilities of modern electronics provide a socio-political dialogue between the subjects of politics and active users of the network and the government without departing from the desktop. The storage of the results of such interaction for an arbitrarily long time in a set of localization points is provided by the information space of the network. Through the modern technologies of storing and transferring photo and video materials, any careless word or action of a political subject can fly around the world in a minute, and political opponents will replicate these materials and use this information via communication channels. Such materials can be both actual and emerge from the past.
The Social Media as a Key to Success
The most popular social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have tremendous influence on the development of politics. Hellweg (2011) wrote, В“This breaking down of previously existing barriers enables strengthened relationships between voters or advocates and politiciansВ” (p. 24). Regularly viewing the news and commentary tapes, a politician can observe what moods prevail in the society, what topics they care about, and what special problems they pay attention to. After all, often the national political elite do not imagine a range of issues that are topical for most citizens of the country (rising prices for food products, utilities, etc.). Every politician always strives to have the degree of public support that will enable him/her to promote ideas at the highest administrative level, that is, in power and society. According to Power (2011), В“As a popular political analyst on Fox News, Mr. Gingrich is clearly aware of the value of being in the public eyeВ”. Possession of power is the main goal of every politician, but they tend to it in different ways. Chinnasamy and Roslan (2015) stated, В“Social networking sites have proved successful in gaining votersВ’ trustВ” (p. 124). It is no accident today that any political leader explains his/ her actions to the general public and various government bodies through press conferences, communication with journalists, direct bridges, meetings with citizens (including voters), etc. Schossow (2013) wrote, В“Barack Obama had dozens of social network profilesВ” . For example, the US State Department began to send out the themes of Barack ObamaВ’s speeches to his subscribers through USA.gov portal. According to Open Government Partnership (2015), В“USA.gov has a long history of connecting millions of citizens to the government information and servicesВ” (p. 2). Theses of the presidentВ’s speech at Cairo University in June 2009 were translated into thirteen languages and sent out to more than two hundred countries of the world. Michaelsen (2011) stated, В“Online communication transcends geographical bordersВ” (p. 35). Such an approach has become an important tool to establish a dialogue with citizens who do not have television and access to the Internet. Mobile phone users who received text messages had the opportunity to send feedback: a lot of comments and questions appeared on USA.gov. Also, digital politics was used during the presidentВ’s trip to Africa: citizens of almost all African countries received a message about the opportunity to ask the US president and leave him comments about his speech in Ghana in July 2009. Thus, it is quite natural that politicians increasingly use online communication for their own purposes.
Social communication on the Internet is constantly evolving, and politicians are discovering all the comforts of the Internet to communicate with voters, and many of them post their profiles in different social networks. However, it is also known that the formation of the right profile is very important for any political leader, and knowing the simple rules of his/ her own presentation in social networks will help to form a correct opinion about the personality and activity of a politician. Before creating a blog or a profile of a politician, it is necessary to set a task to create and maintain a certain image, namely a modern, communicative, energetic, responsible one who can make decisions without excessive bureaucracy, being in constant communication with the population. Good work in social networks should also be permanent, creative and based on the knowledge of the specifics of the Internet site and its audience. Unreconstructed pages lead to significant damage to the reputation of politics and political power. That is why, it is so necessary to gather the right team of assistants.
The Internet gives a lot of opportunities for communication, offering the possibility of direct communication between the population and politicians. According to Cassell, Jackson and Cheuvront (1998), В“The Internet has emerged as a unique and prominent mediumВ” (p. 71). Social media is a new step in the future for the development of the political sphere. There is a forecast that over time the Internet will radically transform the state and democracy to such an extent that the result will be a new wave of democratization on a world scale. A support group or support network is a fairly new type of non-governmental organization, whose members provide each other with different types of non-material and non-financial assistance. Such a group can be used to widely spread information to the public, which was beyond the power of an individual member of the group. Theoretically, the Internet contributes to the creation of networks and the success of political actions, facilitating information exchange among interested groups. For example, another project of the US State Department is the creation and distribution of computer games that, in addition to a set of standard functions, teach English and tell people about the history of the United States. According to X-Life Games (n.d.), В“X-Life Games LLC uses integrated mobile and internet-based entertainment to build bridges between Arabic, Persian, and English-speaking culturesВ”. By creating its own playing field, the user becomes one of the students who comes to the United States through an exchange program from the Middle East. The player finds him/herself in various situations that familiarize him/her with the traditions of the American way of life.
Today, the Internet represents a kind of forum for communication that goes beyond traditional collections and the press, consolidating the possibilities of interactive communication and providing information to a large number of people. According to Torres Da Silva (2013), В“The Internet encloses various possibilities of public communication and debateВ”. There is evidence that these types of communication give special advantages to organizations that have access to such technologies. The regularity with which traditional media refers to information received in social networks allows people to believe that the personal profiles of politicians and statesmen of various levels are accepted as the truth. Almost every television story in TV news programs refers to information obtained from the official account of a politician posted on the social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, now it is not necessary to take an interview, one can simply refer to the post on the personal page.
The development of the Internet technologies gives an opportunity of forming free information dissemination. In the modern world, the Internet, as a part of the public sphere, significantly affects the formation of social space. It helps to build a communicative field between people when they use different ways of communication. Due to the global information network, politicians and the society of the USA and all over the world have ample opportunities for dialogue on the network in order to facilitate the participation of citizens in the decision-making process, as well as the development of the democratization process. The politics of the US State Department is a direct example of this process. Taking into account all pluses and minuses of social media for politics discussed above it is obvious that it has a great influence on this sphere. The advent of social media has provided an impetus to new politics. Therefore, social media has limitless possibilities and is very beneficial for this field. Nowadays politics cannot exist without social media being its integral part. The more social networks are developed, the more actively they are used by politicians and statesmen. This is a modern and very long-term political trend. Today it is social networks that allow citizens and the society to communicate their interests most effectively and quickly to the authorities. It is not ruled out that in the near future the real policy can almost completely move into the virtual space.