Facebook Is Not a Good Political Organizing Platform

By Alexis C. Madrigal

When politics moves online, it remains the big, difficult collective action problem that it's always been. The specific technologies we use, though, do shape the mechanics of how people solve that problem. Tech President points out an intriguing post by activist Adina Levin arguing that Facebook's social model breaks for organizers.

[T]here's a pretty serious problem, it seems to me, in the use of Facebook for organizing. It's hard to get to know people on Facebook.

In the Facebook social model, it's not very socially acceptable to "friend" someone you don't actually know. The Facebook model is designed for people who are already "friends". A "friend" relationship is symmetrical - both need to acknowledge the relationship. Facebook does have a separate built-in asymmetrical type of relationship. Institutions or celebrities can create "pages" that fans can "like". The model sets up a hard dichotomy between people, who have friends, and celebrities who have fans. It doesn't make social sense for a celebrity or institution to "like" one of its fans. By contrast, in Twitter, it is easy and socially acceptable to follow someone without their following you back. With this affordance and social practice, it is easy to become familiar with someone's tweets, and use lightweight social gestures including retweets and replies to over time get their attention and make their acquaintance.

Read the full story by Adina Levin.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/08/facebook-is-not-a-good-political-organizing-platform/61207/