Who sets the public agenda in the era of social media?

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The agenda-setting theory is nothing more than a theoretical reference to be deconstructed in the present. In my opinion, several factors intercede to build a public agenda, one of them is social media. The active participation of people in deciding what to think is mixed with the influence of the media mainstream and the politicians’ own agenda.

We could say that traditional media do not have the same impact today to impose relevant and political issues on the public. It is more about a continual interchange and flow of information between the media, politicians and this new empowered actor: the audience. For example, the campaign of #metoo on Facebook and Twitter did not take real relevance until the high profile accusations came out in the New York Times, although social media were the main amplifiers of the issue right later, even spreading all over the world.

The last paragraph of the theory suggests that “(…) agenda-setting seems to be useful for the study of the process of political consensus.” That statement was completely challenged on the past presidential elections in the US, as the mass media did not have such an important role as social media did in the political consensus of the voters. That influence in the political environment is still challenged.

We could not strictly delimit, however, who builds the public agenda today. My advice to politicians would be to keep both eyes in their audience, listening to them more and be aware of this new reality. Also not to lose sight of the algorithms in social networks, and the way in which local, national and global conversations stand out. At the end, algorithms in social media could be the real “agenda makers” nowadays, right?


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