Facebook data undependable
October 1, 2007
The benefits of Facebook are undeniable. It is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family back home or stalk a cute classmate. It provides hours of procrastination and fun activities to keep you occupied during class, such as poking, groups for Chuck Norris, picture tagging and Pirates vs. Ninjas wars. Depending on what you are looking for, Facebook can help you find someone down for random play and can even be a source for biased and undependable statistical data.
p. According to a recent collection of data from The Flat Hat, Facebook shows that among the undergraduates at the College who list a political stance, liberals outnumber conservatives more than 2.8 to 1. The classes of 2008 and 2009 are believed to be moving sharply left after the ratio of 2.5 liberals to every conservative rose to approximately 2.8 to 1. However, to suggest that the College has a liberalizing effect on its students based on data retrieved from Facebook is ludicrous. While this data may seem objective and accurate, it is far from reliable.
p. Facebook data is usually collected within the first 10 minutes of creating a Facebook account. At this point a new member is probably more concerned about what his or her profile picture should be than with how he or she is politically portrayed. The information posted is typically done in haste so the user can post his or her almighty Facebook profile as soon as possible.
p. Even those who stop to think about who they are ideologically are faced with a slew of choices, which may confuse any non-government major. The words libertarian, apathetic, moderate, liberal and conservative could be confusing to a 17-year-old who only took a semester of government in high school. Choices here cannot be considered accurate because typical students are not trained to think in those terms. Most of us are raised Democrat, Republican or independent. The terms conservative and liberal are “blanket” terms — they include too many ideologies. Each choice for political views would have to be rigidly defined for students’ responses to be considered accurate.
p. Despite the vague, blanketing nature of Facebook, political data is undependable because students may be unwilling to disclose their political beliefs. Profiles are visible to all of their friends and members within their network. It is not uncommon for people to change their views based on their audience. Is that not the reason secret ballots are used?
p. To me, politics has always been regarded as a topic not to be discussed at the dinner table, especially around friends one wishes to keep. A social network where billions of users can access someone’s political views isn’t any different.
p. Whether or not the College has a liberalizing effect on its students is an issue that cannot be determined by data retrieved from Facebook. Facebook was not created for political exchange, but social networking; this makes political information present on student profiles inconsequential. A social network whose members are 10 times more likely to obsess over their relationship status than their political status is hardly a reliable source.
p. __Joanna Sandager is a freshman at the College.__