Candidates pounce on social media

Battles are being waged on Facebook.  

“In George Town during the last election the [People’s Progressive Movement] had four candidates, two in Cabinet and two on the back bench. During the campaign we held what’s [sic] called ‘yard meetings’ to cover communities on each street.  

“In George Town, when these meetings were held, one Cabinet member consistently was a no show, always saying he had too much work. What was actually discovered was that after … the meetings, the next night, this member would go into these communities door-to-door and tell the residents the[y] need not vote for the two MLAs and rather should vote for … [Walling] Whittaker and Mike Adam.”  

That Facebook post came from former PPM member Joey Ebanks, who alleged similar goings on during meetings in Bodden Town during the 2009 campaign.  

PPM leader Alden McLaughlin declined to respond to Mr. Ebanks’ comments or speculate about what “Cabinet member” he was addressing.  

However, Bodden Town PPM candidate Alva Suckoo had plenty to say about the matter in a reply post to Mr. Ebanks.  

“Joey Ebanks … you still haven’t taken aim at your United Democratic Party comrades with any of the ‘tough’ questions and you started posting very damaging comments with regard to the PPM [my party] over the weekend and then when I corrected you the comments seem to have been removed,” Mr. Suckoo’s response read. “This forum is not going to get any of us elected and the real proving grounds are not to be found on Facebook.”  

Mr. Ebanks denied having removed any comments in a later post.  

Whatever the truth of the matters discussed in the back and forth, it’s clear that as the Cayman Islands 2013 general election draws near, that social media is becoming a more visible tool for candidates.  

At least one current government minister, who is also a candidate in the upcoming election, explained why he thought social media would proliferate as a platform for campaigning. 

“When we look at our electorate, in particular the average age, I believe that it is still over 40,” said Health Minister Mark Scotland. “So just based on that we might think that social media will not be that important in the upcoming election. However, while the average age of our electorate may be high, we have a high per capita use of mobile devices and therefore I think this will definitely encourage increased use of social media. 

“In a small community like ours, it is a useful tool when used in a positive manner and can help candidates get their message out to the electorate,” Mr. Scotland added. 

George Town independent candidate Matthew Leslie announced his bid for office on his Facebook page. George Town PPM candidate Kenneth Bryan, the youngest candidate in the race thus far, has been making the rounds on social media sites for months. “Social media has become a vital part of campaign strategies now,” Mr. Bryan said. “This is partly because the percentage of young people voting is increasing. The BBM and social media culture is a huge part of our lives and a way to connect to people.” 

Mr. Bryan added that in his opinion, some people were using social media to campaign as early as the 2009 general election that preceded this one. 

“At the time not many people were using BBM and Internet services were becoming more efficient. Now these modes of communication are more accessible and a key focus for young people,” he said. 

“Young people are not going to meetings. You have to go to their ‘playground’ and meet them where they’re at. If anyone wants to be successful with the youth vote, they have to convince young people that they are familiar with their environment. At the end of the day it’s that environment that you will be responsible for,” Mr. Bryan said. 

Another example of how the campaign has become more social is the advent of anonymous groups such as “Keeping Them Honest”. The group singles out specific candidates on issues and seeks to get to the heart of matters apart from politics. 

Social media exploded within the past decade in the American political arena, but according to some observers, has become so prevalent that its usefulness appeared to decline during the last presidential election cycle.  

Micah Sifry writes on the website ‘TechPresident’: “We took a critical view of the Facebook ‘townhalls,’ Google ‘hangouts,’ Twitter ‘chats,’ and YouTube ‘ask the candidate’ pages that popped up in 2012. Not one of these things had any real effect on the course of the election or caused the campaigns to engage the voters in any but the most superficial ways. Social media just didn’t matter in 2012, except as a new form of passing entertainment. This cycle, the breakout moments for social media-powered movements didn’t really happen, and it’s worth asking why.”  

The Pew Internet and American Life Project reported in October that the numbers of Americans that used social media to comment on political issues more than doubled between 2008 and 2012.  

“One reason could be simply that in a bigger ocean, it’s harder to make a ripple,” Mr. Sifry wrote. 

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