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Navigating politics with friends on Facebook

The political arena is certainly heating up, particularly with the recent national party conventions. Commentary from both sides of the aisle is being posted in the newspapers, shown on television, and extended through social media. Social media networks can play a significant role in connecting people and establishing support for a candidate. During an interview on ABC’s World News with Diane Saywer, Michelle Obama commented on receiving over 28 thousands tweets after her speech at the Democratic National Convention last Thursday.  Social sites such as Twitter and Facebook are powerful tools in campaigns.  However, relationship between politics and media may have a negative impact on the social network foundation behind it all.

In this opinion article, the author raises awareness on just how much of an impact politics can have on social networks.  With sites like Facebook, it is very easy to share user opinions, pictures, comment on links, and show support for one’s party. Friends and family can view this commentary, from all political sides.  But, what if they don’t want to see it on their “newsfeed” all the time? What if is just too much? One user in the article states that the opinions shared can get annoying and as a result, will “unfriend” the culprit.  Apparently the action is gaining popularity during political elections, with “one in five social media users blocks, unfriends or hides the political content posted by others…”.

The article quotes a social media strategist saying, “We already tend to gravitate toward like-minded individuals, but we have friends who are on the fringe…We tune those folks out during elections and connect afterward”. What are the implications of these disconnected friends during the election?  Removals of edges or links between friends in the network can increase the distance with other friends and could potentially bring the network into different components. The network can be less stable and information may not pass as easily through it.  Particularly during the election, political figures and supporters take to social media to share information and gain support.  Broken relationships and weak connections can make it harder for the political party to win.



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