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