Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Facebook's Failings as a Platform for Organizers

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, August 9 2010

Veteran activist/organizer/thinker Adina Levin puts into words an open question running underneath our discussion last week about the dynamics of Sarah Palin's Facebook engagement. Facebook's built for, well, friendship, really, or at least as a tool for faciliating the budding of the same. Does that make it a bad choice for organizing? And if so, what then? Levin:

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.

Now is as good a time as any to watch or rewatch the above trailer for the coming Aaron Sorkin-penned Facebook movie, called "The Social Network." Yes, I really just wanted a chance to embed that trailer; it's rather breathtaking. Could it be more dramatic? But it does remind us that Facebook was engineered in only 2004 to enable a certain sort of college-based social interaction. What politicians and advocacy groups are doing with it now is, as Levin's post suggests, retrofitting. (via Beth Kanter)

Bonus: If they made a movie about the invention of YouTube...

Update: From Twitter comes a bit of perspective. "But FB has over 400 mn users," writes Patrick Egan. "Period."

News Briefs

RSS Feed monday >

First POST: Showdown

How demonstrators in Hong Kong are using mobile tech to route around government control; will the news penetrate mainland China?; dueling spin from Dems and Reps on which party's tech efforts will matter more in November; and much, much more. GO

friday >

Pirate MEP Crowdsources Internet Policy Questions For Designated EU Commissioners

While the Pirate Party within Germany was facing internal disputes over the last week, the German Pirate Party member in the European Parliament, Julia Reda, is seeking to make the European Commission appointment process more transparent by crowdsourcing questions for the designated Commissioner for Digital Economy & Society and the designated Vice President for the Digital Single Market. GO

First POST: Dogfood

What ethical social networking might look like; can the iPhone promise more privacy?; how Obama did on transparency; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Sucks

How the FCC can't communicate; tech is getting more political; Facebook might see a lawsuit for its mood manipulation experiment; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Wartime

A bizarre online marketing effort targets actress Emma Watson; why the news media needs to defend the privacy of its online readers; Chicago's playbook for civic user testing; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Climate Changes

Google ends its support for ALEC; how network-centric organizing powered the big People's Climate march; is it time to retire the term "blogosphere"; and much, much more. GO

More