addicting comprable to brushing our teeth every morning in terms of our everyday routines and daily to-dos. If you have a few free minutes, check your Facebook. If you’re in class, check your Facebook. You miss your friend in Egypt and wonder how they’re doing, send them a Facebook message. The inter-connectivity that Facebook has provided us with as a society is monumental if not now necessary in the progression of our day to days. One of the main events of 2012, namely the Presidential election, has inevitably and reasonably been linked and questioned in terms of Facebook’s influence and ability to affect voter turnouts this year.
John Markoff‘s article “Social Networks Can Affect Voter Turnout, Study Says” is a dissected interpretation of a study conducted by scientists from the University of San Diego and Facebook (study published here). At first, they believed this study would only extend out to Facebook’s influence on voting, but such was not the case, which is very typical of Facebook findings. We don’t even realize how subliminally monumental this social network is integrated into a multitude of things we do. James H. Fowler, a professor at the University stated “What we have shown here is that the online world and the real world affect one another.” I can’t help but disagree with Fowler, the real world and the online world really are one in the same. How are we supposed to constitute the difference if at this point one so heavily “influences the other”? Facebook was in no means created to be a tool of promotion for political campaigns and elections, but through “social shaping,” we as individuals have molded the versatility of Facebook to satisfy a broad definition of social needs.
This influence of Facebook on voter turnouts can be most likely labeled as social shaping. Nancy Baym in her book “Personal Connections in the Digital Age” explains to us that in social shaping, the influence flows both ways, we influence technology and it definitely influences us. When reminded on Facebook about the nationwide Congressional elections with a reminding message at the top of everyone’s feed stating “get out the vote”, users were more likely to participate because they also could see the total number of Facebook users that had participated, including six or more pictures of their friends who fell into this category. The Facebook reminder afforded users the opportunity to join their friends in participating in some element of the Presidential election, or possibly to venture over to the Romney or Obama fan pages. What’s even more interesting, is that 4% of those who said they participated, lied, thus proving further that the social influences of Facebook can be directly linked to our participation in political engagements. Baym quoted “Machines do not make history by themselves. But some kinds of machines help make different kinds of histories…”
If Facebook can influence voter turnouts for this presidential election, ultimately, it has a direct effect on history. As mentioned previously, according to Fowler, the real world and the online world heavily affect each other, this is where the elements of social shaping can be most closely extracted. The Facebook platform has afforded us as individuals a more personalized approach and insight into something that was once very far removed from immediate society. The United States has always been a democracy, but now we have the ability to send direct messages, tweets (Mitt Romney & Barack Obama), emails etc directly to the source, this most definitely benefits both the candidate as well as the voters. Candidates can actively promote their platforms, beliefs, and political ideals, and voters are in turn far more informed. A direct relationship of benefits. Might this increase in a more personal approach change the concept of democracy? Are we theoretically becoming more “democratic” with such a direct influence on each other and the elections? Baym already suggested that “technology is positioned as causing us and our social lives to change” (39) in the context of determinism. But determinism aside, the influence here is clearly visible.
I am going to make a confident assumption that a majority of individuals would prefer an innocent Facebook news feed reminder than a random public servant knocking at their door at random hours of the day reminding them and asking them to participate in political affairs. This progress we’ve made with the speedy flow of technology has effectively changed the way we think and the way we participate within our communities. It would not be unreasonable to think that physical ballots will and might one day turn into technological ballots and we will all be able to vote from the comfort of our own homes. Perhaps then we could finally and indefinitely increase voter turnouts. Less than two months till election time, who did you “like”?
If you decide that you absolutely positively
hate prefer not to see such things on facebook, this nifty youtube video will tell you how:
And another interesting read to fire up your brains.