A focus during Presidential campaigns is how candidates will address poverty and healthcare in America and it’s easy to see why – the numbers are not easy to swallow. One in six people in America face hunger and this food insecurity affects one-fifth of all households that contain children. One in five Americans cannot pay their medical bills. Lack of money is clearly an issue. Lucky for us, the candidates and their supporters spend millions of dollars to purchase commercials, events, and memorabilia that tell us how bad these problems are and how their opponent is incapable of solving them.
I hope that sounded strange to you. Millions of dollars are spent to tell us about issues we know exist. Millions of dollars are spent to childishly attack opponents. How is that lucky for us? Why do we as voters allow candidates to waste money that could be well-spent if focused on social good? In the new world of social media, why are candidates and their supporters wasting millions of dollars on media and memorabilia to get their message out?
Social media can reach more people in a day than ever possible by traditional means. The monthly active users for the three major social media sites Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter are 1.55 billion, 1 billion, and 320 million respectively1. And campaigns on social media have had tremendous effects. The ice bucket challenge raised over $115 million2 for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (AMS) and Squatty Potty’s video of a rainbow-colored ice cream pooping unicorn has attracted over 25 million views from potential customers.
Using data from Bloomberg’s article “Tracking the 2016 Presidential Money Race” (as of 13 September 2016), when you remove all “Life Support” spending (travel, salaries, food, lodging, etc.), the Clinton campaign has spent around $143.3 million and the Trump campaign has spent around $97.8 million on media and memorabilia. Now have your Squatty Potty ready because the next statistic will make you sick. From data on opensecrets.org, Superpacs have spent $993.5 million on 2016 campaigns.
That’s a total of $1.235 BILLION spent on describing issues and slandering opponents while there are American citizens with insufficient food and healthcare. Let me put this into perspective. If we spent that $1.235 billion on social good instead of ad campaigns, we could pay for enough food to feed 148,960 families-of-four for a year or completely pay the hospital bills for 150,609 children.
Think about the “social good on social media” campaign these candidates could run. Instead of ads attacking their opponents they could show a video of themselves positively impacting hundreds to thousands of lives – something I’m sure we’d all rather watch. The candidate that harnesses social media’s power for the greater good will be someone we can be proud to vote for, not the lesser of two evils.