Dispatch...Like many other Americans, David Bickham joined the Facebook party in 2009 and began reconnecting with long-lost friends.
year to test Facebook
January 4, 2012
But talk of kids and sports often gives way on the social network to
posts about politics — and for Bickham, that’s where the party ends.
“I actually unfriended one of my best friends from high school and
college because of his need to constantly spew his political beliefs,
and the hate with which he did it,” said Bickham, a 48-year-old
Lancaster resident. He hasn’t heard from his friend in about two months.
It will be a full-Facebook presidential election this year, the first
national vote since the website began occupying such a huge part of
American life. Sixty-two percent of voting-age Americans are Facebook
users; 64 percent of voting-age Americans are registered to vote.
So if the issue hasn’t hit you already, it soon will: A lot of those
high-school buddies, third cousins and former co-workers on your
ever-expanding friends list think some pretty wacky things.
For Bickham, a Republican, it was a Democratic friend who turned every conversation into a political debate.
For David Jones, a 47-year-old Ohio native who lives in New York City,
it’s the Republican friends who join Facebook fan pages for
“I’ve never unfriended somebody for political reasons, but I admit to
shaking my head if someone ‘likes’ Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin,” Jones
Eight years after Facebook’s founding and four years after it began
expanding beyond a college-age audience, we’re still fuzzy about the
social network’s place in political debate, said Aaron Smith, senior
research associate for the Pew Research Center’s Internet &
American Life Project.
Candidates and causes abound on the website, and it’s a major source of information for voters. But the average user has
130 Facebook friends, and our social-media circles often include a mix
of people. There are relatives and close friends with whom we’re
comfortable talking politics, Smith said, and also the casual
acquaintances and professional contacts with whom politics is a
“The same posts that are seen by your group of friends who share your
political views might be seen by people who don’t share your views,”
Smith said. “With emotionally charged issues like politics, people are
figuring out how to navigate those relationships.”
In 2010, one in five adults with Internet access used a
social-networking site such as Facebook for political purposes, Smith
reported in a study on that year’s midterm elections. Twelve percent
revealed online which candidates they supported.
In 2012, he expects politics to be a hot topic. And the virtual soapbox will be huge.
More than 157 million Americans use Facebook, and about 75 percent of
them have signed up since 2008. Twitter, founded in 2006, grew from an
estimated 1 million U.S. users in 2008 to 17 million in 2011.
Margo Seyboldt of Lewis Center said she is always up for a good debate,
whether or not her friends agree. She’s certain that some have deleted
her from their Facebook lists because of what she writes, although she
said she believes in discussion that’s based on “facts and tact.”
“I am very conservative, and all of my friends know,” she said. “People
don’t have the nerve to tell me why I get deleted, but they do tell me
or my friends that I should not post my political views on Facebook.”
Richie Frieman, a Baltimore-based writer who pens an online advice
column as the Modern Manners Guy, said Facebook is fraught with
Simply clicking the “like” button for a candidate, cause or someone
else’s comments will be seen by others, he said. And people who share
their opinions tend to make bolder statements in writing than they
would when speaking with someone face to face, he said.
“My golden rule for all social media is ... if I were standing in a
room in front of everyone I know in the world, would I feel comfortable
saying it?” Frieman said. “That’s really what you’re doing. Facebook is
not a private site.”
Deleting someone from your list of Facebook friends isn’t rude, he
said. Facebook also gives users the option of ignoring friends’ updates
without ending the online connection.
Tom Perry, a Powell resident who described himself as “in the
middle-ish politically,” has purged both Republicans and Democrats as
Facebook friends, “and in 2012, I expect to quietly unfriend a few
more,” he said.
“Online forums are like a cocktail party. If someone irritates you with
their blabbering, you excuse yourself from the conversation, right?”
Read this and other articles at the Columbus Dispatch