During the months leading up to the last Federal election, it was really interesting to see friend’s Facebook posts from across Canada. Depending on what someone’s profession was, what province they lived in, whether they currently reside in a town or city, and so on, posts on a multitude of political issues were widely varied. Some posts were useful and informative, some were angry, and some were strange. When one feels passionate about a particular topic, posting articles that support that passion seem like a good outlet. I have always wondered what impact these posts have on a person’s Facebook friends – can someone successfully sway opinion by being opinionated on Facebook?
People expressing their opinions by posting articles, pictures, postcards, and so on, is not a new thing. I generally find that my friends fall into two camps when it comes to opinionated posts: people post about a particular topic because it means something to them and they want to share that knowledge with others, or they post because that are upset about something. I am not an easily offended person (although that may be hard to gauge as I have probably chosen to be friends with likeminded people on Facebook) – so If a friend is taking a stand on an issue that I do not particularly agree with or find offensive, I am comfortable making the choice to either ignore that post, or deciding to read it to learn more about differing opinions.
But not everyone wants to be exposed to differing opinions. Using the recent Federal election campaign as an example again, this past Fall, I started to see a number of friends objecting to the politicalization of their Facebook feed. I also started to see some passive aggressive posts and comments similar to the postcard picture posted above; many people seemed to want to be on Facebook for fun and did not want to be dragged into a political debate or guilted into taking a public position on an emotionally charged issue. I heard all sorts of conversations in the school yard and pick up time where people were expressing their Facebook frustration – with some going as far as to unfollow or unfriend people for repeatedly posting on election issues.
Regardless of that, I still think it’s good to be exposed to a variety of opinions and I do think a healthy dose of friendly peer pressure is necessary when it comes to encouraging others to become informed (in particular, I am thinking about the Facebook campaigns encouraging people to vote). Because we have access to such a vast amount of information online, I welcome seeing articles from media sources I would not normally seek out.
There have been many articles posted about how Facebook friends impact each other – but most of the articles I have seen relate to how Facebook can make some people feed bad about their own lives when they compare themselves to how their friends choose to represent themselves online. But how can influence be measured? I found many articles online somewhat related to this question, like this one by the Huffington Post, but none that really answered my particular question. I think this would be a fascinating sociological/technology study and would love to know the outcome!