If your Facebook News Feed is anything like mine, those baby announcements and vacation photo albums have been increasingly crowded out by political-themed posts. This happened to some degree four years ago but the effect feels exponentially increased this election cycle. To some, it makes sense to share your political views in the same venue where you share just about everything else. But for others the effect is jarring. One of my friends got almost 30 likes for changing their status to read “This is not a political post”. Lifehacker even explained how to “Block annoying political posts on Facebook”.
But the question I’ve been trying to solve is: do these poltical-themed posts actually work?
Some people may be actively trying to alter the opinions of those in their network while others may simply be commiserating or sharing a well-executed potshot with friends who share similar views. But certainly there must be some effect from all this opinion infiltrating our feeds. Right?
But it’s been surprisingly hard for me to find a convincing study that explains to what degree these posts from peers across Facebook (and all social media) can influence a vote. Most research I have found seems to be simply equating the amount of buzz around a candidate with whether they win or lose. But that doesn’t take into account if that buzz is positive or negative. Twitter has created the Twindex which does take into account sentiment but of course only covers the world of Twitter.
We’ve know the power of word-of-mouth for awhile now. This year feels like the ideal opportunity to understand how peer-to-peer influence really works across social networks in an election. A few things I’d love to understand better:
- We know weak ties allow opinions and news to spread further faster. Are our expansive Facebook networks an effective way to get political opinion outside of the filter bubble we tend to live in?
- Are the memes and parodies spread across our networks not only making us laugh but also subtly shifting opinions?
- To what degree do we take the person posting into account vs. simply consuming news in our stream?
If this information is already out there, please send it my way. If not, this is a prime opportunity to learn more in general about social network influence whether it comes in the form of a well-written opinion piece or just the latest #eastwooding pic.