Facebook was made for politicians.
It may have started as a little social networking site for college kids, then it whored itself out to the lowest common denominator everywhere. It may have started as a refuge for friends to stay in touch, then it reeked of predators – bosses, parents, predators on parole – creeping on those foolish enough to relax their security settings even for a moment. But now it has truly come into its prime as the most efficient pandering device of the modern political system.
Everything that Facebook sells, and sells well, is cyber gold for politicos. Here we find the perfect bedfellows of selfish introspection and masquerading worldliness: a “Save Darfur” group right next to a status update of “[blank] is so happy her hair finally got curlie!”
A steadily growing list of “friends,” with its indeterminate number of strangers never actually met in person, all blanket-messaged with the latest event that you simply must attend. A neatly formatted list of personal attributes trimmed down to whatever nominal facts can encompass someone’s life and personality in half a screen.
The ability to repress any photos deemed unbecoming by righteously untagging oneself from any scandalous situation. The capacity to give token words of affection – it’s your birthday? Happy Birthday! – and token shows of support – joining the faddish help-group of the day, signing up for any sticker for any number of causes – removes the meddlesome stink of guilt that wafts up from a rough world.
Facebook is like political crack. Ah. Well. Another kind of political crack.
Consider the newly launched Facebook profile of our dear mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, up and running just in time for … you guessed it … his re-election campaign. You don’t need friends when you don’t need something from them, after all.
But let me be clear. I wish to cast no aspersions on Villaraigosa’s job performance or his campaign. That’s small potatoes compared to the critical issue of his FB profile:
There’s an open letter to the mayor from Chico, strongly urging him to run for governor of California in 2010 and citing his many accomplishments. Erika tells us that she would … “like to meet Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa because I think he is an excellent person…” while Max proclaims, “Keep up the work you are doing Antonio! You make us Boyle Heightians proud!” There are no less than six references to a run at the governor’s mansion, interspersed with links to Twitter, Flickr, MySpace and YouTube and all those other inter-nets and the Googles that the kids are doing these days. In his 15 fan wall posts, we get a nice … daresay perfect … cross section of L.A.’s diversity: five Anglo-y names, two African Americans, six Latinos, two Asian Americans, ten men and five women.
But the best thing on the page is “Antonio’s” responses to his supporters.
“Thanks for the support David! In fact, I was in Washington today pushing for a ‘Main Street Economic Plan’ to help Los Angeles, and other major cities, implement a new roadmap to recovery.”
“Hey everybody, make sure and share this page with all your friends. Just click the “share” button at the top right or bottom right corner!”
“Happy Holidays to you too Rashila, and to everybody here! Thanks for becoming fans. Don’t forget to tell your friends to come join us as well. Take care and be safe during this festive season!”
Call me cynical with the political process, or perhaps my online grammar has been destroyed 4ever, but it’s hard for me to see these quips just rolling off the mayor’s digital tongue. It’s nice, at least, that so many regular folks, his FB buddies, want him to run for governor, and that these regular folks represent such a broad-based coalition of different ages, backgrounds and points of view.
In fact, it’s so neat and tidy, shouldn’t we just cut out the middleman of the electoral process and elevate public servants to the highest offices in our fair land by their popularity online? The rest of our society is based on such things, so why not our government? If politics is a popularity contest writ large, shouldn’t we have Facebook, the glorious and unceasing engine of our technophile narcissistic future, take us there on the wings of status updates and pokes?
Think of it. Instead of muddling our way through policy speeches, standing in the blazing sun to wait for a stump speech delivered outside a nursing home or homeless shelter, we could simply friend our candidate, look at his profile and favorite music, check out her groups, wade through his pics and see who she’s friends with. Instead of hanging our chads, we could click and accept a voting invitation alongside group requests and event invitations.
As thanks for our tireless efforts and support, the candidate would share with us the latest RI-diculous video and write HAPPY BIRTHDAY! on our wall on that very special day. Sign me up.
A Face for Politics: An L.A. Campaign Goes Facebook
Facebook was made for politicians.