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Social Media as a Globalizing Agent for Political Culture; What Has Changed in America’s Cultural Exports?

Alongside its economic, diplomatic and military prowess, the United States’ relative position is heavily conditioned by its cultural influence. Terms such as “Americanization” or “Westernization” have penetrated the very fabric of numerous academic and social spheres across the globe. Interestingly, the former concept sprung in the early 20th Century from a national effort to assimilate and integrate immigrants into the country’s cultural system. For many decades though, the dynamic has shifted from integration to expansion of cultural products. Hollywood movies, fast food chains, Levi’s Jeans and pop music are but a few examples of a vast cultural portfolio that has been carefully curated to raise appreciation all over the globe. As mentioned recently in The Economist, the American brand is loved everywhere.

Fondness for the American way of life has long escaped territorial confinesThe American dream is now a product that can be sold to the masses in the form of a Big Mac. Still, a new caveat has swiftly shaped the narrative about the United States cultural exports in recent decades. The rise of social media is effectively acting as platform of spread in the globalization of the United States’ political ideas. These sites have a unique entertaining character that frames what topics grab public attention. For the past decade, cultural agents such as consumer brands and even political parties have invested billions in expanding their message through the digital landscape. In fact, politicians spent $1.8 billion on digital advertising in 2018, making social media the fastest growing advertising medium in the United States.  


In this spirit, a new class of cultural export has been created. American politics has come to rise among users as a topic of shared interest and controversy. Social media has increased America’s cultural production exponentially. Its influence transcends the promotion of Western democratic norms and values. Rather, the American political export encompasses more mundane content in the form of media and memes.


There is a pivotal factor to blame for this new export category. Consumption of American social media has spread globally at soaring rates for the past decades. As of 2021, only 240 million out of the total 2.85 billion monthly Facebook users come from the United States. Eager for American content, media outlets and social media users elsewhere have started to follow the roots and work of many political networks and influencers. From QAnon to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the United States political culture has reached far corners of the world. Glocalised’ versions of the BLM movement have spurred protests in South Korea, Nigeria and Hungary. Interestingly, different ethnicities haven’t truly influenced the extent to which BLM protests have spread within these different regions. Instead, the sentimentalist character of the United States politics has consistently triumphed over ‘minor’ demographic obstacles along its expansion process. 

Among many other intrinsic features, I predict it is the low-entry barrier, real-time monitoring capacity, and the micro-target of specific groups that make social media a perfect platform to maximize political engagement. Politicians from both the right and left ends of the political spectrum have repeatedly attempted to use Twitter and Facebook as primary means to amplify their voices. Of greatest resonance to international audiences might be Donald Trump’s ludicrous Tweets in the midst of the 2020 presidential election, but other figures have reached similar levels of visibility.  



The intersection between cultural exportation, politics and social media is growing thinner as these platforms expand and reach more users. As of 2021, scepticism towards electoral systems and initial results are but a few palpable sentiments that have spread across the globe, mirroring popular and controversial debates spread via social media. It is therefore expected that this phenomenon heightens exponentially in the coming years.  


Nicolás Martínez
A Politics and Social Policy final year student. Demonstrable passion for current international affairs and a special interest on the nexus between media and domestic politics.


Social Media as a Globalizing Agent for Political Culture; What Has Changed in America’s Cultural Exports? Reviewed by Nicolas Martinez on Friday, August 06, 2021 Rating: 5
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