Antisocial media

I’ve been following Tweets referencing the election in New Brunswick and it seems to be there is a fairly tight group of folks doing most of the commenting.  I heard back in 2006 the parties were paying people to comment on blogs, online newspapers, etc. – maybe that extends to Twitter as well.

That’s fine with me. Companies pay people to monitor and prop up their brand via social media, why not politicial parties?

It’s caveat emptor for those looking for an objective view on the election, however.

11 thoughts on “Antisocial media

  1. I’m with you on this. Social Media, at least in this context, has brought all the pundits, influencers, media participants, and political junkies into a few forums where they can attempt to influence or simply shout out their ‘unbiased’ opinion. Its all fun and games for the 1-2% who love this stuff.

    However, when a journalist recently asked me what impact Social Media would have on the current election, I had to swallow my SM advocacy hard and tell them there would be little to none, as outside the above echo-chamber, the influence it has on the average voter is quite limited…or even inexistent.

    Politicians, don’t quit your door2door activities !

  2. I don’t know- there’s this guy who seems unaffiliated:

    “Hey there’s a ton of MLA’s who only have 4 or 7 years service yes? Getting rid of them before they serve 8 yrs saves pension yes?”

  3. I think that it would be far more productive for the parties and candidates to use SM more transparently. That is, don’t pretend to just be a supporter of the party. Instead, listen and engage with voters. I have to respect the fact that the NDP seem to be doing just that, whereas the PCs and Liberals, apart from a handful of individual candidates, are simply using SM for one-way communications.

    I do have to disagree with the commenter above, though. Most of the SM activity surrounding the election seems to be using the #nbvotes hashtag on Twitter. The people participating there are the 1-2% who eat this political stuff up. However, there are other outlets. Facebook has become very mainstream in the past couple of years and the commentary I’ve seen there seems to be coming more from the segment of the voting population that isn’t usually as politically engaged. And even if they aren’t actively participating, there’s no question that they are seeing political debates and opinions in their newsfeed.

  4. I think it was at CBC (or was it here?) that this was discussed a short time ago. The story mainly pointed out that the ‘social media’ was restricted, at least with the two main parties, to simply churning out rumours, satire and mud through tweets.
    I think they said the NDP had a little more content. However, the point was that social media is NOT a one way street. The parties think its a good way to churn out propaganda, but the reality is that if you aren’t interested in reading a paper about politics, you aren’t going to want your computer/phone filled up with garbage from a political party.
    It’s so bad that the parties don’t even bother using it to get more funding or new members, its just a screed for the election. The most ‘interactive’ use of social media I remember was about six years ago when the federal Green Party actually used online polls to redevelop policy. I wouldn’t suggest going that far right now, but when you have a ‘democracy’ where the two main parties don’t HAVE to work for your vote, then social media really doesn’t enter into it.
    I hadn’t looked at the facebook group for the NBPower debate in a long time and was quite surprised that there was very little activity. I would have thought a group like that would be seriously trying to oust Graham, but like the election its down to a few people giving opinions and very little interactivity.
    That doesn’t mean there is no possible use for social media-the biggest users of it are youth, and if you look at this election there is VERY little reason for them to get involved in it, and from what I’ve heard, Duguay knows little about computers and doesn’t really trust them. However, in NS it was the youth vote that really got the NDP into power, if an alternative party could actually get youth interested, THAT is when social media networking will really take off.

  5. Opinions are fine, on social media or wherever. But if there is no real data content opinions have little value. What we need is informed opinion – then you can have a debate. The problem is poor quality information and poor quality data analysis. Unless social media are employed to fix that problem (and, by and large, it is not so employed) – its just a major time waster. As was stated above, a venue for the punditocracy.

    “I hadn’t looked at the facebook group for the NBPower debate in a long time and was quite surprised that there was very little activity.”

    Ha! Is anyone else surprised?

  6. I guess I’d rather have some way of knowing whether someone’s opinion has been bought and paid for, or whether it’s that person’s actual view. This is especially important if a person pretends to be from one side, and actually represents the other side. Our election has already demonstrated this sort of unethical behaviour. That is the reason, after all, we require political advertising to self-identify.

  7. Again, this is where Richard and I’s opinion differs, and ironically Richard’s ‘opinion’ is not based on the facts or evidence that he says are so important. He was NOT a member of the facebook group for NBPower-I was, so I have the ‘data’, he has the ‘opinion’. Like I said, during the debacle there was a LOT of excellent research done by members of the facebook group. Many were experts in the field they were commenting on-accountants, NBPower employees, workers in the energy field.

    Life is complicated and no one thing can be reducible to any generic comment. Within a facebook group there is the ‘wall’, where anybody can post anything, and I agree that most of that was simply people ripping off their gut instinct.

    Then there is the ‘discussion’ section where specific topics were laid out, and SOME of these were also opinion, but many/most weren’t. In fact I started several of them with various topics that I found either on CBC reports or within the NBPower documents, or from threads that I found here. These were followed up on by many members who then added new information to them from various perspectives.

    There is no doubt about the gibberish, but like mainstream media you can’t say its ‘bad’ simply because SOME of the information is biased or challenged.

    However, the facebook group was a meeting point which people used as a platform for political action-and there was a LOT of action. There were protests at the legislature, there were protests at the various MLA offices, at constituency offices, as well as public meetings. That is why, yes, I was VERY surprised that this didn’t seem to carry on over to the election. Its too bad that it didn’t, and it definitely needs more study as to why the site didn’t continue to act as a political tool-it is VERY unfortunate it didn’t.

    For Mr. Downes comment, that is the good thing about Facebook, it is VERY difficult to be anonymous. Whenever a person posted, they were googled and ‘outed’. Several liberal party workers were discovered this way, as well as several employees of Knowlton and whatever. So unlike Richard I see BIG possibilities for social media in the future, in particular as younger people enter into the political arena. Like the US, there will be BIG benefits for the person who both listens and attends to public concerns AND knows how to effectively use social media.

  8. ” He was NOT a member of the facebook group for NBPower-I was, so I have the ‘data’, he has the ‘opinion’”

    As per usual, you are playing the distraction game. I predicted several months ago that this particular Facebbok group would fade away and in the end produce nothing of value. That’s because the Facebook group was full of opinion but had little in the way of real data analysis. The goal of the group was to stop the sale; it was not to generate a discussion leading to an energy policy or anything of practical value. Just a kneejerk reaction, like 99% of Facebook groups.

    The problem is not the media being used; its the garbage being dessiminated. The ‘political action’ is useless unless its grounded in good data. All we got from Facebook was opinion and Area 51 analyses.

    “definitely needs more study as to why the site didn’t continue to act as a political tool”

    Wrong again; it served its purpose as a political tool – that is why the site has gone silent. It failed miserably as a tool to develop energy policy. Given the uninformed opinion, it could hardly do anything but fail in that regard. You consistently confuse political action with the generation of good public policy.

    ” that is the good thing about Facebook, it is VERY difficult to be anonymous.”

    Wrong again. Its easy to be anonymous on Facebook. All you need is an anonymous account.

  9. Richard is both right and wrong, again, he is wrong about the content at Facebook, and like I said, he was never a member so he really didn’t see the content. There was TONS of stuff that wasn’t opinion, but of course it stretched out from September to March, so at any one time it can be misleading.

    However, he is right in that its purpose was to kill the energy deal, and once that was done, there really was no purpose to that particular site. It’s also true that a LOT of people saw simply joining the group as a way to express their ‘dissent’. We don’t really know, but it could be that people simply thought that the size of the group would be enough to make the government rethink its agenda-again, thats why more research is needed.

    However, it certainly hasn’t ‘gone silent’, and there is TONS of stuff there on energy policy, its simply the case that its energy policy that Richard doesn’t like-but those are two very different issues. Just because you don’t LIKE somebody’s opinion, doesn’t mean that opinion is invalid.

    There were VERY few people who didn’t give their full name at the group. Whenever one popped up that was unknown or said Ben P or something, they didn’t last very long in the dialogue because everybody assumed they were hiding something.

    But its ridiculous to say that it produced nothing of value, what exactly did Richard think it would produce? It was a grassroots group that was given no authority and no resources. However, there is a strong indication that it killed the deal, we just don’t know. We do know that Quebec wanted better assurances on Lepreau, which probably means a better financial deal, and Graham simply couldn’t do that. It’s HIGHLY doubtful that all the liberals who eventually said they could not support selling the utility itself would have done so if it hadn’t been for the protest that began and was organized through the group.

    It’s simply nonsense to say it produced nothing of value, for at least a huge percentage of the population it killed a deal they opposed, and thats a HUGE accomplishment and only shows in part the potential. The problem, of course, is that people aren’t particularly interested in politics, at least the way it currently is played. Social media could, in fact IS, starting to change the way political dialogue is carried on. Just take a look at this election and look how often the two main parties are talking about ‘consultation’ with the public. That’s a huge step itself, I remember the Lord and Graham election, and there was little discussion about citizen involvement. It is fairly slow to get moving, partly because of NB’s aging population, and the lack of any interest in the youth vote or interests, but thats starting to change.

  10. “It’s simply nonsense to say it produced nothing of value,”

    And that, of course, is not what I said. As per usual you are playing the distraction game and moving the goal posts. It failed to play any role in developing an energy policy either before or after the HQ deal fell thru. It has gone silent. The excitement has gone away and the hard work of contructing an energy policy is, well, just too hard. Slogans are much easier.

    Its fine to use social media as a means to spread a message. The basic problem is that these media do not really create much dialoge; they serve as rallying points for like-minded groups. So you end up with, e.g. duelling blogs or duelling Facebook sites. I do not see any real advances there; speed of messaging is increased, that’s all.

    NB’s basic problem in policy development is three-fold, as I see it; a lack of transparency in the public sphere, a lack of non-partisan data collection and analysis, and a mass media disinterested in distributing any such analyses. Unless those problems are addressed, social media have little public policy value other than as soap boxes for partisan groups. A consultation exercise in the absence of good information, fairly distributed, has little public policy value.

    I think you are confusing two different, although related, things: activism around a particular issue vs policy development. The former requires (these days) Google (factoid collection) and Facebook (messaging); the latter requires some actual expertise in particular policy areas.

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