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Obama and Letterman Talk Social

January 27, 2018 298 44 No Comments


Obama and Letterman Talk Social

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Ronnie Jones
2018 January 12

  • With the exception of a handful of public appearances and a single radio interview with Prince Harry in September,​​ former President Barack Obama has avoided heavy social interaction. (3)

  • This month Netflix announced former President Obama will be the first guest for David Letterman’s new six episode series. (3)

  • In a sixty minute interview the former president says that​​ the same innovations in technology that helped make his noted election possible have now evolved to exacerbate the political divides that already exist. (1)

  • 2006: Twitter launces and Facebook opens to the public.(2)

  • 2009, September 21: Obama becomes first sitting president to appear on the “Late Show”. (3)

  • 2017 March: Letterman tells New York Magazine that he “would have gone to work on Trump” if he was still a late night host. (3)

  • 2017 August: Netflix announces Letterman series to include former President Obama as a first guest. (3)

  • 2017 January 12: Premiere episode for new Letterman show is set to air. (1)

Obama acknowledges using social media while campaigning, as an organizing and messaging tool. ​​ He thinks that his success in 2008 was made possible in part because of how his campaign used social media. (1) However not all younger Americans are so open to political news information in their Facebook feed. Most of their acceptance will depend on their views pertaining to general conflict. Under what​​ author Daniel Kahneman calls “fast thinking” we pick up ideas without considering source.​​ 

With social media, the reading and digesting of views and ideas is quicker as it comes from those we consider to be friends and followers. (2) In a retrospect reflection, Obama wishes the office constraints didn’t change how he interacted with the public. “That’s what’s happening with these Facebook pages where more and more people are getting their news from. ​​ At a certain point you just live in a bubble.” (1)

Author Kathleen Hall expressed similar concern in her 1992 book, “Dirty Politics: Deception, Distraction and Democracy”. ​​ She compares voters to pack rats, gathering bits of information here and there, with little attention paid to the source. ​​ (2.) ​​ “If you watch Fox News, you are living on a different planet than you are if you listen to NPR. That’s part of why our politics is so polarized right now. ​​ I think it is a solvable problem but it’s one we have to spend a lot of time thinking about,” Obama concludes. ​​​​ (1.)

Helping educate our members understand the bigger picture.

The most recent presidential election is only the third since Twitter has launched and since Facebook opened to the public. (2)

  • Much of the news on Facebook and Twitter comes from​​ traditional outlets like CNN and the New York Times.

  • A recent study by Eschelon Insights and Hart Research found that adults aged between 18 and 49, trust political news provided by friends more than political information shared by other sources.

  • According to a Pew Research Center survey:​​ 35% of respondents between the ages 18 and 29 said that social media was the “most helpful” source of information about the presidential campaign.​​ (2)

  • Respondents aged between 20 and 49 ranked social media as the third​​ most helpful avenue, behind cable TV and news websites.





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“My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” is a Netflix original with David Letterman. To find out about viewing the complete interview:

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Story inspired by:

Point: (1)
In a rare interview, former President Obama shares his thoughts on social media and how it keeps​​ Americans inside partisan “bubbles” of their own creation. ​​ The increasing personalization for how citizens receive information leads to the reinforcing of biases. ​​ “One of the biggest challenges we have to our democracy is the degree to which we don’t share a common baseline of facts,” Barack Obama tells Letterman during a taping for a new Netflix series.

CounterPoint: (2)

While social media is a new and engaging platform for political information, opinions and discussions, it also may make it easier for misinformation to spread.  ​​​​ As a nation and world, we do not yet know what that means for democracy as a whole. ​​ In a recent study of whether or not the news source affects its trustworthiness, one respondent comments, “It’s not that the reputation of the publication did not affect my opinion…but more that I didn’t pay attention to it at all.” ​​ 

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