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Opinion: Obama — the Viral President

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Two weeks ago, Buzzfeed posted a video titled “Things Everybody Does But Doesn’t Talk About, Featuring President Obama.” The video, which was posted on Buzzfeed’s Facebook, has garnered nearly 4 million views so far. This is just one of the many cases where the President and his administration have proven themselves as the first viral presidency, in an age where most young adult use the internet and television viewership is on the decline. Obama’s online presence has allowed for him to better relate to voters, especially young millennials, something that has been greatly beneficial for him.

The video depicts the President doing various humorous actions that, as the title states, we all probably do but don’t admit to. This includes checking himself out in the mirror, drawing a Napoleon Dynamite-esque picture of his “crush” Michelle, and saying “Thanks, Obama!” when he is unable to fit a cookie into a glass of milk.

This video is part of an effort by the administraion to reach out to young people about Healthcare.gov and get them to sign up for insurance at Healthcare.gov under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare to those who still don’t know they’re the same thing. Obama used a similar tactic when addressing the early problems with the website by appearing on Zach Galifianakis’ online interview show “Between Two Ferns” on funnyordie.com where he specifically mentions why young people should sign up for health insurance to his hilariously reluctant host.

Obama even joined a recent trend of celebrities and other famous figures by doing an “AMA” or “ask me anything” on Reddit for the 2012 campaign. During the Q&A, Obama answered various questions ranging from his views on issues and how he wanted to tackle problems if re-elected (which he obviously was). He even answered in support of net neutrality, an issue he has carried through on with the FCC expected to rule in favor of an open and free internet this week.

Not only did he answer questions on issues, but he also answered some nonpolitical questions such as his favorite basketball player (“Jordan – I’m a Bulls guy”) or the recipe for the White House’s beer (“It will be out soon! I can tell from first hand experience, it is tasty”). He even made reference to the “Not Bad” meme about himself.

Obama isn’t the only one in his administration to use to the Internet this way. Vice President Joe Biden, Michelle Obama and other major Washington politicians appeared in a video shown at the 2014 White House Correspondents dinner. A similar video starring Kevin Spacey as his character Frank Underwood from “House of Cards” was used in the 2013 dinner as well.

While we’ve had presidents before in the age of Internet and there have been multiple parodies online of them, especially of George W. Bush, Obama is the first sitting president to put himself out on the Internet in this way. In addition to these videos, he’s also the first president to have a weekly Internet address. While it may not be possible to find hard data supporting this, his presence on the internet has likely improved his public image as an everyday person, and allows him to relate better to people, especially millennials. Many of whom do not know or remember a world without internet and are expected to one of the largest age demographics by the end of the year. Obama’s legacy will likely be remembered more positively because of this effort to reach out and relate to voters through the Internet. By doing this, Obama has created a precedent for future presidents to be more involved online, especially when reaching out to younger voters. It will be interesting to see if the various candidates for president for the 2016 presidential election can emulate this in the campaign for the White House. Their mastery or failure in the medium will likely play a major part in how favorable candidates are and their electability.

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