Brexit. One of the most controversial topics to date in UK politics which sparked and is continuing to spark masses of debate on and offline. But what would Brexit look like without digital media? From campaigning, debating, publishing results, the outcome itself and the aftermath, would Brexit be the same without social media?

For many, the term Brexit holds confusion, including myself. So, let’s try and piece together vaguely where Brexit started…

We began the great Brexit journey in 2016 with David Cameron’s promise of an EU referendum as part of his re-election campaign in 2015, which would allow the general public to decide the fate of the country and arguably the EU’s. Despite the proposal, Cameron actually stood for the remain campaign so after the result respectfully had to resign. This meant that Theresa May was assigned as the new prime minister. Below is a video explaining what Brexit actually is, for any of you that are still as confused as me on the matter.

Campaigning

Perhaps the most effective in terms of time, money and speed, social media campaigns for #Remain and #Leave were hugely to blame or congratulate for the outcome of Brexit. Even David Cameron highlights the significance of the internet in his 2009 data speech:

“turns lonely fights into mass campaigns; transforms moans into movements; excites the attention of hundreds, thousands,  millions of people and stirs them to action”

Ironically, this backfired on Cameron as the social media campaign for #Leave was stronger and resulted in winning the results of the public. Without social media, would the Leave campaign still have won? Before digital media, it was typical to see campaigning via old school posters, leafleting, rallies, writing directly to newspapers and voters and merchandise such as badges and hats.

Image from Flickr political campaign badges being made in Indian 2009 elections (labelled for reuse)

Of course, these are all still used today but are used alongside social media campaigning. Social media has changed campaigning. Firstly, due to the interactivity, politicians can directly speak and reply to the general public and see clearly what people like and dislike. Additionally,  it is easy to see the specific demographic a campaign is reaching so can be tailored to fit the needs and interests of the particular group targeted. Finally, social media is less costly and time-consuming and can be a completely free advertisement as individuals express their views which can easily go viral and reach millions.

 

Debating

Thanks to digital media, not only can politicians debate and promote their personal views to millions, but everyone with access to a social media account. At the beginning of 2017, the total number of social media users in the UK had reached over 39 million users, proving how many people a single tweet can reach and make an impact on. Platforms such as twitter also make it even easier to get involved with Brexit through interactive and easy features such as hashtags, anonymous polls, trending tweets, retweeting, liking and replying as a handful of examples. From data collected from 15:43 07-Aug-15 until 01:29 22-Apr-18,the total number of tweets including hashtags surrounding Brexit equal to 78027758 (over 78 million). Like many and probably yourself, I took myself to social media to view other opinions and gain more understanding on #Remain and #Leave which would consequently shape my own view and final vote on Brexit. Below is a tweet from my own personal twitter account which mirrors the millions of tweets put out by the British public around the Brexit vote which was put out for everyone on twitter to read.

This shows how platforms such as twitter enable everyday people like me and you to voice our thoughts and debate among one and other instantly through a screen. This can be viewed to be both a positive and negative impact on Brexit. A positive factor and something I am passionate about is the involvement of politics in people’s (especially young people’s) lives and it is clear that social media makes it easier to do so. Additionally a large demographic of Twitter’s audience comes from younger people meaning that they are more exposed to political movements even if they do not take an interest in politics. However due to the digital element of social media, people are more wiling to involve themselves within conflict and the ‘Keyboard Warriors’ often take a shine into using a twitter debate against people personally.

The Aftermath

Still, two years on from the vote, Brexit is an extremely relevant topic on social media and we can’t go more than 24 hours on Twitter without seeing the term pop up somewhere. For example the most recent and ongoing mass Twitter discussion is surronding the deal itself. New hashtags have emerged – #LeaveMeansLeave and #PeoplesVote expressing views on May’s deal.

A fan of politics or not and as a social media user, you can’t escape the continuous debates and discussion. So I say, you might aswell get involved with it all. After all, it is often our future and lives up for debate so why not decide what you want for yourself.

After all if you can’t beat them, join them.