I gave a talk at a small private tech conference on Tuesday. It was a huge success, and I was impressed by the reception that I received from the audience. Maybe I should think about running for office — that could be lucrative.
According to the audience, when people say “Oh, I use Facebook,” it is often like saying that someone who reads Vogue and watches 24 has a “feel for the elite.” After the conference, an audience member started a thread of people who had expressed support for my candidacy, and I was sent several bouquets of flowers.
Perhaps now everyone I know will be using Facebook instead of Twitter, and the people at the conference will be meeting once a week instead of five times per year.
The students at my kids’ school were hoping to raise money for their non-profit teacher; one grandmother wanted to sell cookies to raise money for me and my wife. A friend bought my husband coffee at Starbucks to raise money for me.
Yes, I use Facebook. But not for the reason you think. I use it to tell people how to vote — how to organize, ask questions, engage. I don’t always use it to follow politics closely; I use it when I have something urgent to talk about with someone.
About two weeks ago, my friend texted me to let me know that he would no longer be voting in this election. (He said it was because he is a woman.) I responded immediately, asking whether the man had voted before, and he gave me an interesting answer. He told me that he had not, and he said that at one point his boss was calling him and saying, “Get out there and vote.” (Neither my friend nor his boss took me seriously.)
The day after my friend’s text, we agreed to meet and talk politics. I said to him that I was sorry to hear he was going through a tough time. He said that he was looking forward to getting this behind him, and he said that he was inspired to cast his ballot for me.
Now, other than the time I spent one morning in 1990 frantically asking my friends to use Facebook for election day this year, I rarely look at my Facebook news feed. That is probably partly because I only follow a few people, but mostly because I just don’t feel the need. It makes it too much work to follow things, and the controversy is enough to get my full attention. That’s just how I roll.
It used to make me mad to hear how Facebook companies are making a killing from political advertising. During the election, Facebook banned advertisements from outside organizations that were not registered as political committees, but it allowed many partisan causes to circumvent this requirement by simply putting their ads in the news feed of people who follow them.
The Facebook Trending Topics feature, which appears on the left of the news feed, only shows if an item is trending on Facebook and in what state the items are popular. People may find some news sources trending in one state or another, but if they look in the top of their feed, the trending story is not ever seen.
This is especially disappointing because the trends list began this way. I remember when it was listed at the top of your feed, and you could click on it to see the hot topics in your state and see what topics were most talked about. I was shocked to hear that Facebook was no longer publishing these lists. Facebook said that it did not feel it had the resources to release this information in real time. Perhaps Facebook did not feel that this information was relevant to users or was no longer useful. It seems like what’s most useful for users is being updated constantly, and these lists no longer fit that description.
As political debate is now taking place on Facebook through non-partisan venues, I wonder what Facebook’s role will be, going forward. Perhaps a future editor’s note will explain that political advertisements remain legal on Facebook.
I think that my friends would agree that Facebook is the weakest link in the entire political news feed; too often, it just functions as a filter and organizes news to suit a person’s beliefs. The worst story I’ve ever seen was about a man named Charles Herndon who died from a taser. Apparently, his Facebook feed was full of people who were suggesting that people should ignore this and simply ignore him.
I also wonder what Facebook’s role will be during the 2020 election. I would imagine that this year’s suppression of well-reported election news on Facebook, combined with attacks on Mr. Trump’s Twitter page for “canceling” certain mentions, will result in ugly, polarizing politics