Facebook and Politics: Perfect Partnership?

“Computers don’t live up to the grandiose promises of their biggest fans, nor do they sabotage our words, as critics loudly warn they will. Instead, as we learned to do with earlier writing technologies, once we adopt the computer, we adapt it to our needs, and along the way we find new and unexpected ways of changing what we do with words, and how we do it” Dennis Baron, A Better Pencil

Although Baron is talking about the entity of technology, this concept can be translated into forms of New Media. First, Facebook was originally a networking tool– a social network situated at Harvard. Then it expanded to universities and finally to “society” beyond the .edu email address. My own use of Facebook reflects the social networking concept; therefore, I have no examples of my own “political platform” uses of Facebook. Thanks to the newest version the “Timeline,” I know exactly when I joined:

The following video is a bit dated (in that there have been several “revisions” to the Facebook layout since), but it gives us a sense of what Facebook was (still is) intended to be.

With each addition, Facebook shifted more, and more, into the public sphere. Users began adapting it to their own needs just like the pencil was repurposed into the world of writing and computer use went from mathematics to include writing. Facebook has become key in politics.

US Politics: Facebook outlines how it can be used during the 2012 Campaign Season.  There is even a “Facebook Political Team.” Like it or not, Facebook definitely has the power to impact politic; they are connected to social interaction, and facebook is a place of interactivity and participation.

Social Media has taken on a political life. The 2008 Presidential Election,while historic for many reasons, reached voters through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. The Presidential Election (and I sense a reprieve of this for 2012) is a macro level campaign platform; however, local politicians have also employed the platform of facebook in their campaigns on the micro level.

For instance, the WV primary elections will be held at the beginning of May. Many politicians have taken their campaigns to their facebook pages. The example here is a city council hopeful. Facebook has evolved, and it is clear that the current format (with the cover photo) does help create a professional persona; however, this is still a personal page.

This screen shot is a current  facebook posting. While this claim may cause some  potential voters to agree with him, others would see it as  an attack on the current way the city functions. Furthermore, he is very clear about his own political stance in his post regarding Mitt Romney.  Another thing this particular image represents is the link between multiple social media: the first post is posted “via twitter” while the second is not. Facebook allows users to interact with multiple social media outlets. Both posts instigated conversation, which is “coverage”; however, the question is does it frame this candidate for council in a “good light”?

Another potential problem of using Facebook as a political platform in this instance is the existence of the “new” Timeline. The opposition can access the Facebook comments, statuses and images posted in the past. It is just a click away. The personal is very public. The issue with Facebook as a political platform at the micro level is the issue of audience. Who views it? What parts of it are they able to view? But, more importantly does the politician keep the range of audiences in mind when posting?  In the image below, the personal is paired with the professional: political discussions, “professional images,” outrage at “idiocy” and the post about Jesco White.

Herein lies the difference between the amateur (the local) and the professional (the national): You cannot be “friends” with  President Obama. His page is a “public figure page;” it is not his personal Facebook turned professional. This Facebook page is not run by Obama; it is solely a political platform.

Wikipedia does establish the “pros” of the pairing of Facebook and Politics in the “Political Impact” section. Facebook as a political platform taps into the qualities of New Media (and New Ne Media) to expand the audience a politician can reach; however, the blurring of the personal and the professional has the potential to create new problem spaces instead of progress. Facebook as made parameters for politics on the macro scale, but what about the micro? Do the parameters have any effects on the micro level? Not yet.

So how could the platform of Facebook be useful in education?

Facebook as a political platform could really create serious conversations about audience awareness for student writers. It also is a space where interactivity is key, participation and play all come together. Students could learn that they are able to interact with and connect with the political scene they are joining (specifically FYC students) for the first time. It also raises the question, how are you using facebook? What kinds of composing happens there?

Facebook and Politics is a Perfectly (Im)Perfect Partnership when guided by 1) Audience Awareness 2) Interaction 3) Participation. Facebook can be a huge help to a campaign on a budget with conscious efforts to present the persona of your campaign without the personal seeping through too much.

Facebook can help you be successful

Politics deal with social issues. A social network helps us connect to, interact with and learn about the politicians on our terms– what we choose to click on. Could you use your Facebook as a political platform?