Team Trump, Team Clinton: Enough Already! - InformationWeek

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Data Management // Big Data Analytics
Commentary
11/3/2016
09:00 AM
Tricia Aanderud
Tricia Aanderud
Commentary
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Team Trump, Team Clinton: Enough Already!

Election blather just might be turning people off from their social media use. Do you read? Do you turn off? Do you blather?

I have stopped reading my Twitter feed. I used to visit it daily. Since this presidential election got underway, Twitter and Facebook just irritate me. Instead of casual updates I see useless 180-character political sentiments.

Not everyone is going to vote the same, I get that. Trash talk goes on, but it can cross a line. I noticed people, who I followed for business content, were posting their biased political viewpoints, tirelessly. It was an endless stream of crass statements. I stopped following the most obnoxious ones. Soon it became a chore. So, I just posted but didn't participate.

I am not alone. A recent Pew Research Center poll that revealed 59% of the respondents find social media stressful when discussing politics. Many did not realize how politically different they were from others.

Earlier this year, MIT Media Lab released some interesting analytics. They noted that, unlike past elections where candidate information came from the campaigns, debates or news organizations, this time information came directly from the candidates. They showed the Top 150 influencers, with Donald Trump leading the list and Hillary Clinton second. The candidates had more influence than the news media and other sources. With the media being accused of bias, voters wanted more direct information.

When measuring social media, you must consider influencers. These are the Tweeters with a large following who inspire retweets. When I read the tweets, I wonder if the person had any influence? Is someone retweeting these statements? Or is it just an echo chamber where those with similar opinions just retweet and like each other’s posts? Instead of influence, it is just a circle of affirmation?

But an echo chamber where voters reside is not a new idea. The public wants engaging content. Facebook has studied this idea and has been criticized for tailoring the Newsfeed to engage rather than inform. One columnist wanted to see what others thought even if she disagreed. She was open to different viewpoints because it influenced her thinking. Her friends must have more constructive posts than some of mine.

If social media is the new avenue, then let’s just use follower counts to determine the next president. Or we could measure hashtag popularity #ImWithHer versus #DrainTheSwamp? We would then have to worry that it was rigged. Both candidates are using bots to add followers and handle their streams. Atlantic magazine referred to this election as a bot war. The bots inflate numbers but they are not illegal. They just do some of the heavy lifting.

Comments on blog posts are another form of social media. I prefer comments more than blog content. One trend I noticed is those who are silent supporters generally are for Trump. In a recent Washington Post article, they noted that Trump performed better in online polling than when humans asked the questions. These voters claim the other side is so fervent with backlash they no longer share their ideas. But isn’t that the idea of social media?

I wonder how that trend plays into the forecast models? Nate Silver admitted his team was completely blindsided by the Trump primary victory. Maybe we cannot predict these things with numbers and data because we cannot remove the modeler's bias. But what other method do we use? An American University professor suggested there are 13 keys that determine the winner that has been accurate since 1984. He says Trump will win. One of my friends suggested that the polls themselves drove the results and she suggested a more accurate method -- betting odds. Let the voters put their money where their mouths are.

Did you stop following anyone? Did people stop following you? Are you avoiding or embracing social media? Which forecasting method do you trust?

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