What is clear, however, is that social media have had no or very little impact at all. The hashtag #Milifans and the nearly 10 million followers of comedian Russell Brand did not make a difference, except then that they made many commentators, myself included, believe that a Miliband government belonged to the possibilities.
That’s the interesting lesson of last week – but I’m not sure I completely agree with the way it was expressed. Social media clearly didn’t swing it for the left, but many people – including Dr Cammaerts’ colleague Charlie Beckett – have openly theorised that the echo-chamber effect of social media may have given Labour activists a false sense of how likely victory was – and disincentives them from compaigning amongst swing voters.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen the “filter bubble” effect more viscerally demonstrated than in the social media chatter around the election. I suspect that a great many people who were unaware of the idea were completely caught out when the results didn’t match their ambient online social spaces.
It’s something I’ve made a point of teaching the Interactive Journalism students about, but I’m giving serious thought to making it more important in the teaching next year.