Yesterday on Facebook I shared a small experiment someone else had shared. A person I don’t know had posted about going to Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page and then Donald Trump’s Facebook page and seeing how many of your own friends have “liked” each of those pages.
This particular person had so many more Trump supporting friends than Clinton that he came to the conclusion only voter fraud could help her win the election. (A conclusion I do not share, by the way).
So I did my own. You can see the results in the image embedded in this post. I, too, have about twice as many friends that have “liked” the Trump page than I do those who have “liked” the Clinton page. I added a third choice candidate, Gary Johnson, to my findings just to be thorough.
Now, to be sure, this poll is completely unscientific. Some have offered comments on my post that Democrats are “quieter” online than Republicans. Or that many of the Trump “likes” are just people hoping to see what he might say next without truly supporting him (kind of like watching a train wreck). Both of those could be layered in an aspect of truth, I suppose.
But to me, the questions raised are larger than any attempts to try to make sense of the data. Here are a few that bother me, and that could lead to discussions with older students in your classrooms (not necessarily about the election). And remember, I don’t support or follow either of these two leading candidates, which is why these questions are important to me:
- If one group of people in this experiment are at least double the number of any other group, does that say anything about your own life choices outside of this experiment?
- If one group of people in this experiment are at least double the number of any other group, what does that say about the kind of information you are exposed to on social media on a daily basis?
- If one group of people in this experiment are at least double the number of any other group, do you find yourself agreeing more with what they post than what the other groups post on social media?
- If one group of people in this experiment are at least double the number of any other group, do you find yourself thinking differently about the people in the smaller groups when you see what they post on social media?
- If one group of people in this experiment are at least double the number of any other group, is it important to you to try to remedy that by finding other social media connections that would even out the results?
Bias is an important question for me in social media at all times. I try to look for bias in the news (its pretty easy to find). We can find bias in the interviews done on late night television. We even find bias on the websites we visit. The algorithms of social media are such that every website you join is trying to find “more of what you like” to make your experience as pleasing as possible. By doing so, they are, by default, minimizing your contact with those who think differently than you. And what does that do to you? How does that change you?
Do we even know who we are online?