By Robin Miniter
The rallying cry of student political activism is no longer solely compromised of pickets and fliers on college campuses. Defined by our rampant use of technology, the methods of getting the word out starkly contrast that of our parent’s generation.
Where they had bulletin boards, we have wall posts. Where they had megaphones, we have status updates. Welcome to the Facebook.
Founded as a simple social-networking website at Harvard University 2004, it has spread like wildfire around the world. Now emerging as one of the leading facilitators of political communication in the world, Facebook is shaping the dissemination of communication.
With the ability to create groups, events, and fan pages for different causes, it brings politics to a personal level. Grass root organizations are able to blossom globally. Simultaneously, it was possible for anyone with computer access to become involved in the presidential campaign. It has been helping to foster political awareness and social activism. It makes it possible to bypass traditional forms of media and directly reach the viewer. It instills a sense of community online which hopefully will translate into reality.
Advocacy Associates Online a website that, “provides innovative solutions, training, and support for grassroots and government relations campaigns” reported that, “Most grassroots campaigns mostly ignore students and young professionals. That’s a mistake. A growing pool of data suggests these may be some of the most passionate advocates…”
Kristen Alldredge ’05 is now working as a Community Executive of Income Development for the American Cancer Society in Connecticut. She has noted a significant increase in fundraising through use of the internet. “We have just launched a Facebook application for the college Relay For Life events,” she said “…has already shown a remarkable benefit to not only raising funds, but raising awareness in online communities. ”
Jim Urso, a Marist College communication major with a concentration in public relations said, “For a lot of kids, if you see it on Facebook, it almost legitimizes an issue. It makes it real. For example, everyone knew the election was coming via newspaper, radio, and TV, but when they see event and group invites they feel more connected, more part of the action.”
Urso referred to Facebook as, “hip, trendy, and cutting edge.” He said that Facebook makes becoming involved, “cool and appealing.”
At the same time, it is serious business.
Over 500 U.S. politicians have Facebook pages – along with hundreds of others from around the world – as well as thousands of independently run activism groups available to join at the click of a button.
Here at Marist College, sophomore class president Andrew Clinkman said via e-mail correspondence, “Facebook is… an excellent tool that allows people to reach a larger population that may be difficult to contact.”
He noted that it is not allowed to utilize Facebook in Student Government campaigns because of, “…the idea being that the more Facebook friends the larger the potential audience.” This rings true even on a national scale.
Throughout the 2008 Presidential election thousands of groups sprung up online in the effort to mobilize offline. The Washington Post cites Facebook as a true catalyst, crediting the, “gathering of several thousand students at George Mason University in Fairfax,” to a simple Facebook group. This event, “underscored the potential power of online communities in the 2008 campaign,” the newspaper said.
AllFacebook.com, the self-proclaimed, “unofficial guide” to Facebook, published a for-dummies, “Top 10 Strategies for Running a Political Campaign,” list.
Real Clear Politics, and online political news source, reported the true validity of this when they reported, “the Obama camp, harnessed social-networking sites such as Facebook to bring millions of new voters into the political process…It is impossible to ascribe a victory in presidential politics to one force…but it is also impossible to ignore this fact: Among voters aged 18 to 29, Obama defeated Sen. John McCain by the astonishing margin of two-to-one.”
“Facebook is a lucrative marketing tool,” said Julianne Homola, a business major at Marist, “Promoters are able to reach a very important age
demographic. About 52% of Facebook users fit into the 18-25 year old category.”
More cost effective and targeted than traditional advertising – from being free-of-charge to start-up your own cause to reportedly costing $500,000 for Obama’s campaign to place ads – Facebook reaches out to people who are just coming of age to vote.
According to CivicYouth.org, “an estimated 23 million young Americans under the age of 30 voted in the 2008 presidential election, an increase of 3.4 million compared with 2004.”
The correlation is undeniable. Urso said that Facebook is, “raising the consciousness in the up and coming generation at a phenomenal rate never seen before.”
Whether tapping into local politics on a local or international level, Facebook is becoming the tool of choice among those all around the world in order to bring the issues closer to home. No longer do recipients have to wait to have information given to them, they can now take the steps to truly interact at the click of a button.