The article on CNN titled “People ‘unliking’ Romney on Facebook” discusses the timely and interesting phenomenon of political social media presence after an election. Mitt Romney’s fans on Facebook began to unlike him at a rate of 593 unlikes an hour immediately following the election results. The day after the election, the unliking rate increased to 847 friends an hour. In fact, an entire web site has popped up called DisappearingRomney.com that analytically tracks Romney’s decline on social media since the election.
The article also notes that the content on the pages themselves, for both Romney and Obama, tend to go quiet for the few days following an election. As other bloggers wrote, Romney did not post anything to his Twitter or Facebook feed for four days following the election. After Obama was reelected in 2008, his page also went quiet for a few days. This is where the article ends, but I think there is much more to be said about the subject of the article and what it means about Facebook and our society at large.
First of all, to “unlike” something requires a conscious seeking out of that page on your Facebook. Which is made especially less visible when they are not posting statuses, i.e. Romney. That would mean that Facebook users would have to search for Romney’s page, find the hidden button that says unlike, and choose to unlike him. I find this act to be highly suspicious and not plausible. How many times have you sought out a page that you liked without prompting just to unlike it? I personally only unlike in cases of spam or public outcry (cough cough Chic-Fil-A). But for over 12,000 or more people a day to consciously unlike Romney? I call bologna. Either the Romney campaign paid for likes and cut off the payment after the election, hence the sudden decrease, or there are some other factors at work here.
Unliking a page does not show up in your News Feed. Unless you tell people that you did it, nobody will know. To the contrary, when you like something, not only does it show up on your Timeline, but it also is promoted to your friends every so often. So what other factors could be playing in to this mass unliking of Romney? Perhaps disappointment, shame, or lack of interest is a reason. Perhaps liking Romney, the loser, no longer aligns with your brand of online identity performance or taste statement. However, it seems that the most passionate followers of Romney would want to still “like” him after the election, at least for a few days. Was liking your favorite candidate just a small show of support, which can easily be rescinded? I think this ties in very well with the idea of slacktivism.
I am also skeptical of the news media for even publishing this as news. I can’t recall in recent history any articles about Obama’s declining popularity on social media, or any negative associations with his social media campaign at all. In fact, the Obama campaign was a frequent advertiser on CNN.com, if I remember correctly. Just to add that into the “things that make you go hmmm” category.
To just add my final note: I neither “liked” Obama nor Romney during this election season, although I did follow Romney on Instagram (partially because I wanted to see his selfies…they never happened). I think the problem of mass “unlikings” is very unique to this day and age, and speaks volumes about the power of social media, and how it needs to be used. When over-used or left silent, the opposite desired result could occur.