Guest: Eric Kuhn, 21, new media consultant and a senior at Hamilton College, majoring in Government
Guest's notes: The Facebook politician
No longer is Facebook, the voyeuristic social networking site, the Great American Procrastination Tool. For people like me — one of the first to log on to "The Facebook" some four years ago — the excitement is wearing thin. Facebook is boring. Sure, it's grown in leaps and bounds: There are photos, applications, Scrabble, the news feed, videos, pages and the honesty box. But now older people — older than 22, that is — are flocking to it. Heck, my grandmother's friends just posted photos from their European bus tour!
And, there are politicians too. Tens of millions of people are using Facebook to narrate their lives’ minutiae, whether on a campus or on a campaign. (Future politicians should treat both as the same — Be worried and listen to my segment on The Takeaway for more.) At a recent dinner party, I sat down at a table filled with friends, but there was one face I hadn't seen before. When I went over to introduce myself and extended my hand, she looked at me as if we had met before. In a "Like, duh!" manner, she said, "We're Facebook friends." We were. We "friended" each other after commenting on a mutual friend's photo. I'd forgotten about the online friendship until this face-to-face embarrassment brought it all back. Even worse, I was friending politicians public figures with even more tenuous connections.
It seems that Facebook membership would be a logical step for the hippest of politicians. Why not engage and interact with a coveted demographic, the underwhelmed 18-to-25-year-olds? When it was a novelty, Facebook-friending a politician was cool. But now that everyone running for office is on Facebook, a "poke" from a politician is about as annoying — and pathetic — as it gets.
For the soon-to-be wonks of the digital generation, Facebook is set to be a new rule for playing the election game. On Facebook, we'll not only have a posed press photo and a link to an official campaign site, but also archived video of obnoxious frat parties, a record of all the candidates' BFFs (and nasty break-ups) and much more potentially scandalous multimedia than has ever been so easily accessed. I asked Rana Sobhany, a former political consultant in Washington, D.C., if she thought people will just accept youthful wrongdoings and become immune to incriminating Facebook photos. "Absolutely not," was her response. "This is just more fuel for the fire. Political candidates are already looking for every competitive advantage they can get. Think about how much more incriminating content will be widely available as campaign fodder 15 years from now when today's college students are running for office."
Our future presidential candidates have Facebook pages today. What's on them? For the ones who ultimately win the White House, probably not much. It's either because they're smart and savvy, or bored with the whole thing, like me.
— Eric Kuhn