The Politics of Social Media

by Shannon Rasp October 23, 2012 12:27 PM

Two weeks from today, there will be a presidential election in the United States. Last night was the final debate between the two candidates, who appear to be nearly even in the polls. While the candidates are done talking to each other, for what seems like the vast majority of people on social media the debate continues.



With the advent of social media – specifically Facebook and Twitter – it’s now possible to broadcast all of your opinions, for better or worse. And people are taking advantage of that. According to a Forbes study, nearly 40% of all Americans are using social media for political or civic purposes. Newsfeeds from friends and colleagues are filled with political opinions. Twitter wars are erupting between friends from opposite sides of the political spectrum. People who have known each other for decades are “unfriending” each other because of their support for different candidates. It’s a political free-for-all out there, and the media has taken note.


Many of the major news organizations are now tracking Twitter trends during debates to see which candidate’s talking points win the “Twitter war.”USA Today ran an article about how longtime friendships are ending because of political disagreements. As the writer, Laura Petrecca, pointed out, in 2008, 100 million people used Facebook. Today, it’s 10 times that number. That’s a lot of people, and many of them are talking about politics.


All of this has led to a backlash about political posts online. Many Facebook users are taking advantage of the option to temporarily block the updates from friends who are all politics, all the time. A new Internet browser extension, No Politics Please, blocks politically-oriented posts. Other people have just declared a self-imposed moratorium on social media until the election is over.


It makes me wonder, does social media actually matter in politics? Does it really influence people or change people’s minds? Personally, I’ve never read a post that made me change my opinion of something. But maybe I’m just too stubborn. What about you? Has social media actually influenced any of your beliefs? Do you think it’s a valid measurement of the political mindset of a country? Let me know in the comments!


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Facebook Offering New Options to Users

by Shannon Rasp December 9, 2011 04:07 PM

The technology section of the New York Times has a great article called “12 Things You Didn’t Know Facebook Could Do” that is well worth a read.


Yes, we all know that Facebook has been dealing with the fallout of people learning of their moral flexibility when it comes to privacy (as if there’s some kind of law about privacy on the Internet), but it turns out that the Facebook powers that be have also been busy designing and implementing some truly cool options.


For instance, do you want to invite your personal friends to an event, but don’t necessarily want your colleagues who are also Facebook “friends” to know about it? There’s an app for that! Write a status update as usual, but before you post, click on the lock icon below the editing box. A menu will pop up specifying who can see your post. It’s defaulted to “everyone,” but you can customize that to hide the invitation from certain people. Sneaky and kind of mean? Maybe. But at least you don’t have to worry about your colleagues showing up to your “Trailer Trash Bash”-themed party.


Are you working on a project and want feedback from a group? On a Facebook group page, you can click on the “Docs” button at the top and then the “Create a Doc” button on the right to create a text-only document that everyone in the group can edit. Saving the document will post it to the group’s feed.


Clicking “View Insights” in the upper right corner of any page you own will display charts of user information and page interactions. In addition to the number of likes and comments, it will plot a graph of page views and user feedback, plus a breakdown of which Web domains are sending traffic to your page and the demographics of your visitors. You can export all of this information into an Excel-compatible file, too.


You can also paste any link that ends in “.mp3” into a status update, which will allow users to play the music through your post rather than having to click through to the host site, or create a poll using the “question” button above the box to enter status updates.


These are just a few of the handy new options Facebook is offering. Check out the article for more information, and don’t forget to visit our Facebook page while you’re at it!


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50 Quick and Dirty Social Media Tips

by Shannon Rasp November 10, 2011 10:53 AM

There's a great article by Vicki Flaugher posted on sharing 50 easy (and mostly free) social media tips that anyone with a Web presence should read.

Sure, some of them are pretty elementary -- use SEO words in your bio, create a Facebook page, etc., -- but there may be others you might not have thought of before, such as using Comment Kahuna to find industry-relevent blogs to comment on, blog about your real life outside of work, and create a QR code for your business or organization.

Several of the ideas, such as using informal photos for your blog, inviting and becoming guest bloggers, and updating your blog frequently, are things we already do here at But there are other great ideas that we want to incorporate as soon as possible.

How about you? Any tips to elevate a social media presence? Leave a comment with your words of wisdom!

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Can Facebook Save Lives?

by Shannon Rasp July 18, 2011 01:51 PM

I’ve been reading a knowledge translation article in disguise on Yahoo about Slate writer Deborah Copaken Kogan, who woke up on Mother’s Day to find her four year-old son, Leo, feverish and sporting a rash. She took him in to the pediatrician that day, but the doctor said it could be one of a litany of illnesses, including strep throat. Kogan, trying to cheer Leo up, took his photo while they were in the doctor’s office, and posted it with the information about what was going on to her Facebook wall.


Three of her Facebook friends (two of whom are pediatricians), seeing Leo’s swollen face and reading about his symptoms, immediately urged her to take Leo to the hospital, fearing Kawasaki disease. Kawasaki is a rare and sometimes fatal illness that accelerates quickly and can affect the heart.


Kogan, who by her own admission is a pretty laid-back mom, was frightened enough by the messages to take Leo to the hospital, where he was, indeed, diagnosed with Kawasaki disease. He’s recovering, and Kogan credits the immediacy of the Facebook feedback for saving her child’s life.


This story is hardly the first of its kind – there have been other instances of medical professionals and nonprofessionals alike spotting things in Facebook photos and urging people to seek treatment for a variety of conditions, including cancer. But this new phenomena does have its opponents – the British Medical Association recommends that doctors not “friend” patients on Facebook. The Mayo Clinic, however, developed its own Facebook-type social networking site for their patients and providers to use.


Could our society of uber-sharing lead us to improved health care? Or could it result in a spate of nonprofessional misdiagnoses that actually puts lives at increased risk? Susannah Fox with the Pew Internet and American Life project focuses on the strange new world of technology and health care, and it makes for some really interesting reading.


What do you think? Is this an example of KT done well, or do you see a danger in taking the advice of people you may have never even met? Personally, I would welcome people’s input if I chose to share a medical condition online, but when it comes to seeking treatment, I’ll still rely on my own instincts and the advice of my doctor. How about you?

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When Your Facebook Page Isn't Wowing People ...

by Shannon Rasp April 22, 2011 01:45 PM

Does your organization’s Facebook page just sit there, accomplishing nothing? As the administrator of the Institute for Health Policy’s Facebook page, it sometimes seems like an uphill struggle to make the page interesting, current, and worth visiting.

Luckily, I ran across this handy-dandy article from Mashable, an online source for social and digital media, technology and web culture news, called “How Nonprofits Can Maximize Engagement on Facebook.” It’s got great ideas in there, including some tried-and-true “golden rules” and the all-important “Definitely Do Not Do These Things.”

I know I am going to take another look at our Facebook page and see what I can do to make it better using the tips given. Go check the article out for yourself let me know what you think!

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