Byrony Gordon of the Telegraph wrote in frustration this week about how social media is turning us into idiots. She chronicles several tweets and trends across social media in the aftermath of the attacks on Paris as evidence that, “…social media hasn’t just turned people stupid - it has also turned whole organizations into unthinking idiots whose knee jerk reaction in such situations is not to uncover the truth but get hits.” Gordon’s proclamation flies directly in the face of James Surowiecki’s notion of the scientifically-based “wisdom of crowds.”
Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have all added or turned on features in the wake of the Paris attacks this past Friday, November 13. These features incorporate many of the behavioral uses of these platforms into their code. For example, Facebook turned on its “Safety Check” feature, where people can mark on their profile that they are ok instead of just posting something to your wall.
One of the biggest criticisms of the current presidential election campaigns is that the candidates’ ability to entertain trumps their command and discussion of the issues. As this story goes, image appears to matter more than the ability to lead the “free world.” That is what is being said, but is it really true? Have presidential elections degenerated into White House Idol? Are we in danger of nominating Sanjaya f or President?
The language people use to talk about an issue tells a lot about their views on that issue. We never hear a pro-life person talk about how they are anti-choice, nor a pro-choice person call themselves anti-life. Similarly, we know that people who use the #GlobalWarming hashtag are more likely to be climate skeptics and deniers than people who use #ClimateChange in their tweets. These observations made me wonder if we can learn thing about people’s views based on whether they use candidates’ first name only, last name or full name.
For many years I have been pushing my colleagues to more fully integrate social media into their advocacy campaigns. While many were using social media to raise awareness about their issues and mobilize activists to take action (with both direct social media appeals and peer-to-peer appeals to send emails to Congress), none were using social media itself to deliver the messages to lawmakers.
The search for the Grail has consumed many a person over the past to thousand years, both fictional and real, so much so that “searching for the Grail” has become a meme more universal than even naming every American political scandal “-gate.” What makes the search for the Grail such a powerful meme is its combination of being a lofty goal that no one has yet achieved.
This week Governor Rick Perry suspended his campaign to seek the Republican nomination to be president. As a watcher of the candidate’s social media performance, I am not surprised. Especially in these early days, social media buzz about the candidates should be a good predictor of electability . As voters look at their choices, their willingness to engage with them in front of their friends is a good indicator of the candidates’ viability. As voters become less willing to engage with candidates, especially if their behavior suggests they are increasingly unwilling, candidates should and will consider dropping out of the race.
Candidate buzz on social media and in search engines has emerged as an interesting metric for gaging how well the campaigns are doing. Back in 2008, for example, while the last opinion poll in the field predicted that Barack Obama would win the New Hampshire primary, Yahoo Buzz correctly predicted Hillary Clinton would win. Since then, more attention has rightfully focused on the levels of online buzz about candidates as a measure of how well their campaigns are doing.
With rare exceptions, if you Google a political candidate you'll get a link to his or her Wikipedia page among the top five results. Certainly this is true for the presidential candidates, and certainly we can all understand why they should be extremely concerned about what's said about them there. And while there is great motivation for candidates to either modify their entries themselves, direct their staff to do so or hire an editorial consultant, all of these actions are frowned upon by Wikipedia’s editorial policy. As a result, “black hat” Wikipedia editors have proliferated, much to the consternation of Wikipedia. But there has also been a rise in “white hat” paid Wikipedia consultants; along with an effort to organize them, establish a code of ethics and convince Wikipedia that these “white hats” fit into the spirit of Wikipedia’s mission.
Social media exploded with outrage last week with posts decrying Walter Palmer’s shooting of Cecil the lion , with over 800,000 tweets, alone. Soon after, social media exploded with “somewhat less” outrage that there was more outrage about Cecil the lion than there was about black victims of fatal shootings . Some even took to the Twitters with the hashtag #AllLionsMatter 40,000+ times to satirize the controversy . Then, of course, #UFC190 captures Twitter’s attention with over 700,000 hashtag uses. But for all of the attention to Cecil, shootings of black citizens in the U.S. and the Ultimate Fighting Champion fight, President Obama and his trip to Africa garnered the most comments on social media last week (since last week, comments about Obama have shifted to clean energy and climate control).