In the days leading up to the Presidential election last week, BuzzFeed’s Politics section made a huge jump in posts and popularity. Between posts about Nate Silver’s 538 projections – which turned out to be accurate or something – and unsurprising studies on which news sources get the most shares, this group of articles almost slipped through the cracks. BuzzFeed Staff Member Ruby Cramer recently published a series of graphic charts put together by Engage. “Using its Trendsetter app, Engage analyzed ‘likes’ from thousands of Facebook users to tie consumers to political preference and engagement.”
The charts, all in all, were unimpressive; no one had to tell me that fans of Atlas Shrugged were labeled “Likely Romney Voters” or that fans of Rent were labeled “Likely Obama Voters”. (The same goes for Chick-Fil-A vs Jamba Juice and The Holy Bible vs Eat Pray Love.)
What I was surprised by was this need to categorize voters this way. It’s not shocking news that American politics is becoming more and more party-oriented and polarized by the year, but these charts stand out to me because they signify a deeper urge to sort out who among our friends will be aligning with which political party/candidate, without them needing to speak about politics at all. Already people post about cutting social media ties with those who express opposing political beliefs, but will these charts lead to defriending those who drink a different beer than you do – because they might not vote the same way as you?? I’m worried this might be the case, and I don’t like it one bit.
I hope that social media will continue to empower voters to engage in the political discourse and make their voices heard, but I also hope that the affordance to express fully your political opinions does not contribute to the polarization of American politics.