How will Facebook change politics?


by Sunny
23rd May, 2007 at 2:13 pm    

This is the question I have been pondering for the past few weeks and doing intense ‘research’ on. Which, erm, mostly involves trying to become ‘friends’ with any MPs and trying to see what messages they send out. There are of course lots of political groups on Facebook too but I haven’t see anything innovative yet.

Facebook has enjoyed huge growth in popularity in the past six months and now has more than 3.5 million users in the UK. Londoners make up the social networking website’s second largest regional user group worldwide, with around 450,000 in the capital.

Figures compiled by comScore for MediaGuardian.co.uk showed a steady increase in UK unique users up to just over 500,000 in October 2006. But since then UK user numbers have rocketed, to 1.35 million in December and 2.67 million in March. By the end of April, comScore estimates Facebook was being used by an estimated 3.69 million people in the UK. [Media Guardian]

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  1. Leon — on 23rd May, 2007 at 2:37 pm  

    Not sure what you mean by innovative but it is changing social relations I reckon (heard from someone at Uni who said everyone is on there, everything is organised via there, this probably the same at other Unis and even third sector workers are getting in on it). So it makes sense it will affect or shape political engagement.

    The big thing about FB is the groups and events in terms of politics; being part of a groups links likeminded people together and shows levels of support for something.

    Event management is very nicely implemented on there, arranging meet ups is easy so arranging or promoting political events will be (of course whether anyone shows is another matter!) also. Take Tasneem Khalil for instance, when we heard from you Sunny about his arrest the post was up here, people were posting and devising what to do, emails were sent, FB would have been part of that (Sonia was ready to create the campaign group on there and I sent out the info via the PP group). If people are on there co-ordinating the flow of information and then action becomes easier.

    Consider the recent market research (I think Ellee linked to it a few weeks back) which compared MySpace and FB in terms of political interest/engagement etc. FB won hands down, more FB users where politically active in some form than MS users, by a big margin if memory serves correct. FB has over 23 million users, half of which log on every day. That’s a lot of potential for political action.

    In my view FB and social media generally (wikis, blogs, forums, video sharing etc) are limited mainly by our imagination and will; what do we want out of it, what do we want to do with it etc? It’s not about the novelty of the user interface or finding old friends (although that’s a very cool thing!); it’s like a new version of email.

    There was an article a year or so ago by some techy commentator in the US that speculated that email is on the way out and will be replaced by social networking sites and social media like blogs. I don’t think we’re quite near that yet but from my experience virtually all those I know who are on FB don’t email me anymore, they message me via there. The ones that still email, will be converted or else! :D

  2. Amit — on 23rd May, 2007 at 2:56 pm  

    LOOOOOL OMG Sunny now you’re even promoting it???? Whatever next!

  3. Leon — on 23rd May, 2007 at 2:59 pm  

    I know! From someone who, last December when I emailed the writers about using Facebook, once poo pooed it!:D

  4. sid — on 23rd May, 2007 at 3:02 pm  

    I’m trying my best to resist joining inspite of intense pressure from my Asian wife.

  5. Amit — on 23rd May, 2007 at 3:41 pm  

    All joking aside, it’s a great networking tool and very simple to use and has great functionality. It’s not surprising that it is becoming so popular!

    But what the heck is with the poking feature!?!?!?! :-S

  6. . — on 23rd May, 2007 at 6:56 pm  

    I already hate myself enough for signing up for MySpace, please don’t say I have to go on another of these god-forsaken sites.

  7. Vikrant — on 24th May, 2007 at 1:02 am  

    Not too many months ago you had said to meh Sunny: I donot have time nor inclination for social networking websites. … tut… tut hypocrite.

    But what the heck is with the poking feature!?!?!?! :-S

    Unlike Orkut and MySpace, you get more privacy on Facebook. So only those whom you permit can view ur profile. Poking is asking for permission to view somebody’s profile innit.

  8. Kulvinder — on 24th May, 2007 at 2:02 am  

    I hate registring for new sites so the whole myspace/facebook/hi5/bebo/orkut/whatever thing has basically passed me by.

  9. sonia — on 24th May, 2007 at 10:25 am  

    You guys might want to read this in this context – the dark side of facebook. apparently there are lots of BNP activists using it, ive seen people whose profiles have said BNP.

    any group with dodgy intentions ( amongst which i firmly class political parties and politicians) would be stupid not to use the networking power of facebook. there are lots of dodgy groups already – like the World Domination 4.0. etc. It’s a perfect breeding environment for cults.

    “will you be my friend”?

  10. Leon — on 24th May, 2007 at 10:28 am  

    Yeah I was waiting for the dark side of FB to turn up on this thread. I’m also waiting for the press freak out about terrorists using secret groups etc to organise…

  11. sonia — on 24th May, 2007 at 10:29 am  

    vikrant, that’s true.

    but yesterday one of my FB friends pointed out the status feed is avaialable publicly i.e. he could view it when he wasn’t logged in. and plus everyone has been passing ‘notes’ ( hah – that’s why i think FB is so popular – its like being in school again – you see your old chums and go psst!) about the ‘facebook developer platform’ giving away people’s information.

    so what name should i look for you on fb then vikrant??

  12. Duc De Nemours — on 24th May, 2007 at 10:40 am  

    I would never believe anything Alex Hilton says anyway.

  13. sonia — on 24th May, 2007 at 10:51 am  

    oh yeah Leon, i forgot to mention the terrorist groups.

    Also last night over a spliff we were talking about how if the CIA had any brains ( which of course it doesn’t) it would too be on FB to see where all the subversives/activists are hanging out! and generally – what everyone is upto.

    Yes as Vikrant points out only your friends can ( allegedly) see your stuff – but you know what? most ppl respond to random friend requests. and if you’re clever – and you try and friend everyone – certainly the ones who are friends of the friends you have – most ppl think having one person in common is a ‘safe thing’ – that is harnessing the power of networks – the friend of a friend thing. Soon you’re friends with practically everyone that way. And FB might not be doing anything with the information but it’s got it all.

    the other funny thing that i read yesterday was ‘facebook is the end of humanity’ – hilarious! definitley worth a read.

  14. sonia — on 24th May, 2007 at 10:53 am  

    of course – the amusing thing is people like the nigerians and the indians ( of course) have already got the friend of a friend thing down to a T – all without technology and things like Fb. the hawala networks etc.

  15. Refresh — on 24th May, 2007 at 11:13 am  

    Social networking sites should be avoided at all costs. The data and therefore your personal details are available to everyon.e.

    On the one hand we worry about ID theft, but we are now being harvested through our personal relationships.

    You just need to read today’s Independent and you will detect where this could go given that Google have invested in a genetic company.

    The data that is collected via these sites will be like an individual’s DNA. Take it a step further and your children’s children will be affected by what you do online today.

    My recommendation is don’t use social network sites. And when it comes to politics, perhaps we are even more vulnerable. Paranoia can be a good thing.

    At least until you own your own data, with control over its use.

    Google is watching you
    ‘Big Brother’ row over plans for personal database

    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/science_technology/article2578479.ece

  16. Sunny — on 24th May, 2007 at 11:38 am  

    he could view it when he wasn’t logged in. and plus everyone has been passing ‘notes’

    Well, one have pretty tight privacy restrictions on FB… which is why I like it. You can also hide your own activities incidentally, by taking them off your own mini-feed. I think that hides it from other people too ;)

  17. Graeme — on 24th May, 2007 at 11:43 am  

    Leon,

    “Not sure what you mean by innovative but it is changing social relations I reckon (heard from someone at Uni who said everyone is on there, everything is organised via there, this probably the same at other Unis and even third sector workers are getting in on it). So it makes sense it will affect or shape political engagement.”

    Isn’t that Facebook seems to be centred around students a problem though? I’m not on FB so keep in mind that my comments are uninformed, but I suspect that while it is an excellent tool for communicating and organising, unless it can reach out and involve a larger section of society, the actual potential for change is small.

  18. sonia — on 24th May, 2007 at 12:00 pm  

    there’s potential for more of the same same –technology allows people to do with a larger no. of people what they do anyway – i.e. communicate. so whilst there is a real possibility of exploring how organisation through decentralised networks could happen – of course the reality is it still going to end up being centrally controlled – or who gets more powerful through the networks etc. so more of the same in as much as some people trying to dominate through access to more ‘eyeballs’ – but its still about power and domination.

    there are lots of global civil society types on FB – ( there is usually an overlap with uni students anyway Graeme) so the potential for spreading the word around about various projects around the world is massive. for example, if you were trying to organise some global devt. project and you wanted some volunteer types from some US universities – well you could find people very easily through Facebook. of course you can do the same if you are wired into the blogosphere as well, discussion forums etc.

    The problem with Facebook is of course it is a closed platform and not open source.

  19. sonia — on 24th May, 2007 at 12:00 pm  

    if google were to buy facebook..

  20. Leon — on 24th May, 2007 at 12:08 pm  

    I really hope Google don’t…

    Anyway…

    Isn’t that Facebook seems to be centred around students a problem though? I’m not on FB so keep in mind that my comments are uninformed, but I suspect that while it is an excellent tool for communicating and organising, unless it can reach out and involve a larger section of society, the actual potential for change is small.

    Couldn’t say tbh, I haven’t seen any age break down of FB users. My feeling is that at the moment is is very student orientated but that’s no bad thing really; politicised young folk hopefully translates into engaged adults.

    That said with its rapid growth and publicity I reckon it’s starting to reach out beyond the education sector…

  21. sonia — on 24th May, 2007 at 12:16 pm  

    “haven’t seen any age break down of FB users” – yeah but judging from what i can see – i’m pushing the age limit. most ppl i can see all seem to be born between 1982 to 1985!

  22. Leon — on 24th May, 2007 at 12:27 pm  

    Heh true same me although there was that group ‘unline 99.999999% of Facebook users I was born in the 70s’! :D

  23. Jagdeep — on 24th May, 2007 at 2:43 pm  

    So is Facebook like the intellectual version of those networking sites where horny teenagers and girls and boys in their twenties flirt and try to get laid?

  24. Jagdeep — on 24th May, 2007 at 2:44 pm  

    Myspace is good for music though….

  25. Leon — on 24th May, 2007 at 3:34 pm  

    So is Facebook like the intellectual version of those networking sites where horny teenagers and girls and boys in their twenties flirt and try to get laid?

    Er not quite but I guess it might be for some?

  26. sonia — on 24th May, 2007 at 3:45 pm  

    jagdeep facebook is what you make of it – its like asking what people do with email, or any communication system. you can use it for idle chitchat, flirting, or talking about ‘serious issues’..it’s up to you. facebook is just a social utitility. the value of a network is who’s in it.

  27. Graeme — on 24th May, 2007 at 5:06 pm  

    “Couldn’t say tbh, I haven’t seen any age break down of FB users. My feeling is that at the moment is is very student orientated but that’s no bad thing really; politicised young folk hopefully translates into engaged adults.”

    Oh, completely, and Sonia is absolutely right to point out the overlap between global civil society types and students.

  28. Saqib — on 24th May, 2007 at 8:33 pm  

    It’s funny…i signed up to facebook only a few days ago when i received an invite from an old friend.

    I’ve signed up Sunny to the Pickled Politics group…I may not confrom to the description of ‘progressives’ which you had in mind, but I do hope to take the debate forward…so in that regard i am ‘progressive’…i think/hope?

    Keep up the good work

  29. Vikrant — on 24th May, 2007 at 9:10 pm  

    Sonia,

    I’ve learnt to my dismay that FB and Orkut can be a great place for your ex-girlfirends to bitch about you. They even had an “Amey is a sexist pig” community on orkut. It did get it deleted anyhoo. All i had to do was create over 500 fake profile and report that community as bogus.

    Anyways after Wikipedia fiasco i’ve deleted all my social networking profiles.

  30. justforfun — on 24th May, 2007 at 9:40 pm  

    Wise words Refresh – could agree more.

    Justforfun

  31. Vikrant — on 24th May, 2007 at 9:55 pm  

    @Refresh: thats paranoid bullcrap. Granted that i’ve been stalked online and had a few Pizza HuTTers crank calling my home just coz i spanked their arses over Wikipedia, but i dont think you can get stalked over social networking websites if you are careful. You jos gotta follow a few simple rules like no personal details and no pics.

  32. Jagdeep — on 24th May, 2007 at 11:23 pm  

    Granted that i’ve been stalked online and had a few Pizza HuTTers crank calling my home just coz i spanked their arses over Wikipedia,

    How the hell did they get your number?

  33. Saqib — on 24th May, 2007 at 11:34 pm  

    ‘How the hell did they get your number?’

    You seem worried Jagdeep…Maybe they may get you number!

    What’s the matter a bit afraid that you wouldn’t be able to hold a conversation with them…away from the comfort and annonymity of your PC.

    Jagdeep, the champion and paragon of ‘secular liberal democracy’ is beginning to wilt.

    oh…and before i forget.

    ‘THE DEBATE IS THERE TO BE WON’

  34. Vikrant — on 24th May, 2007 at 11:44 pm  

    How the hell did they get your number?

    As an administrator (now ex-admin) over Wikipedia, i was s’posed to disclose my real identity. Given that i have a hopelessly obscure surname i wasnt hard to track my number from NTL directory. There only summit like 200 families in whole of Britain with my surname.

  35. Vikrant — on 24th May, 2007 at 11:47 pm  

    What’s the matter a bit afraid that you wouldn’t be able to hold a conversation with them…away from the comfort and annonymity of your PC.

    Intelligent conversation? Mebbe the convo would have been intelligent for cavemen. All they could manage was a string of Urdu obscenities at my cousin who picked up the phone.

  36. Jagdeep — on 24th May, 2007 at 11:47 pm  

    Saqib, you’re cracking me up!

    remember….

    TOMMOROW IS FRIDAY!

  37. Jagdeep — on 24th May, 2007 at 11:49 pm  

    Vikrant, that just shows what psycho scumbags these people are — it’s amazing that they could be so obsessed as to track down your number then abuse you. But it’s about their true level and says it all you need to know about them.

  38. Saqib — on 24th May, 2007 at 11:53 pm  

    ‘TOMMOROW IS FRIDAY!’

    Are we finally about to witness the sleeping giant of ‘secular liberal democracy awaken for Friday night…like a vampire ready to suck on human blood.

    The mystery will be unravelled!

  39. Saqib — on 24th May, 2007 at 11:54 pm  

    oh…i nearly forget…

    ‘THE DEBATE IS THERE TO BE WON’

  40. Jagdeep — on 24th May, 2007 at 11:58 pm  

    Saqib you keep trying to pinch my bum all over the threads. It’s really gay. Stick to one thread and hit us with your jokes, and the future of Ribena and Vimto Unity for the Exceptional Conceptual Framework needed for cordials and soft drinks to exist and florish and offer a real alternative to secular liberal democracy, which is quaking it its boots.

    THE CRISPS ARE THERE TO BE CRUNCHED

  41. Refresh — on 25th May, 2007 at 12:09 am  

    Vikrant
    Ref #31

    Stalking isn’t what I am concerned about. Not at the moment. The article I linked to is worth a read.

    BTW I thought we’d confirmed you did not know it was HUT that was behind the crank calls.

  42. Saqib — on 25th May, 2007 at 12:14 am  

    ‘Saqib you keep trying to pinch my bum all over the threads. It’s really gay.’

    So Jagdeep…YOU’RE NOT THAT KEEN ON GAYS THEN!

    Well well, maybe all those on the Big Brother thread may be interested in this…that the paragon for ‘secular liberal democracy’ has finally come out of the closet…what as, well we will leave the PP jury to decide.

  43. Saqib — on 25th May, 2007 at 12:19 am  

    Did he wilt from the pressure exerted by whom he refers to as cheese and onion crisps and let out the Freudian slip – that my jury is for you to decide.

  44. Rumbold — on 25th May, 2007 at 12:27 am  

    Seems like handbags at ten paces to me. Calm down you two.

  45. Saqib — on 25th May, 2007 at 12:35 am  

    Runmbold,

    A simple question if I had used the phrase ‘Saqib you keep trying to pinch my bum all over the threads. It’s really gay.’ GAY he said.

    What do you think the reaction would have been toward me on Pickled Politics?

    Wasn’t the word gay used here as a term of ridicule. Now compare this with the sanctimonious posting our friend has posted on the ‘Big Brother’ thread…is there a consistency.

    I have never set myself up as a self-styled ‘bigot basher…banter is fine…but not hypocrisy.

  46. Rumbold — on 25th May, 2007 at 12:47 am  

    Saqib:

    “A simple question if I had used the phrase ‘Saqib you keep trying to pinch my bum all over the threads. It’s really gay.’ GAY he said.”

    People then would have accused you of talking to yourself; and being a bit confused.

    I do not think that Jagdeep’s comment had any malice behind it, unlike those on Big Brother. He is just upset about the football.

  47. Saqib — on 25th May, 2007 at 1:13 am  

    Rumbold i take your point…however i believe i would have been called a bigot, got shouted down and abused…and probably rightly so.

    I have posted a message to Sunny on the BB thread about this. All i want is for everyone to be treated fairly. That’s the last i want to say on this particular topic.

    By the way how comes your still up this late? With me have to study all night for the exam.

    Take care…we need wise heads like yours to keep us youngsters in line.

  48. Jagdeep — on 25th May, 2007 at 12:47 pm  

    Saqib, I love gays. I just don’t like to be followed all over the place by Islamists trying to pinch my bum. Control yourself. We can talk about the rise of Monster Munch and the need for a conceptual framework for Mars Bars and Snickers as an alternative to liberal secular democracy if it arises again. In the meantime say some prayers or meditation to take your mind of your growing obsession with me, cute though it is!

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