Facebook is a busy town square where people are handing out flyers – at all times. The time when our political view was something we kept for our selves is gone.
It is less than a week until the election in Sweden. Like every other election we will choose what party and what politicians we want to represent us in the Swedish parliament and government.
Like every other year, the Swedish election has created a massive coverage in national media and press. But, unlike the previous elections, 3 million Swedes now have an account on Facebook. My own non-scientific observation concludes that we (or at least my Facebook friends) use Facebook a lot to share political thoughts and views.
Never have I heard or seen my friends debate and discuss politics with such intensity. Never have I been aware of what my friends will vote for to such large extent. For me, this is something new. For me, Facebook means an open and transparent political discussion among my friends.
Maybe the fact that the largest political parties in Sweden have formed two clear alternatives, two groups of parties, makes it easier for people to share their views. It is easier to say I am voting for this alternative, or maybe against that alternative than saying I am voting for this specific party. That could be one explanation why I before this election have a pretty good overview of how my friends, relatives, old friends and colleagues will vote.
Another, and maybe a more realistic explanation is that I know so much more about people I have very little contact with, through their status updates. For some reason – could it be the sharing trend? – people do not hesitate in watermarking their profile pictures, posting political videos and articles and writing political comments about debates, media coverage and political commercials. Like co-creation in branding, we are all a part of sharing and creating the political views. Some might say that there has always been an important grassroots movement within politics. Sure, that is true. But it is a bit strange that suddenly almost everyone among my friends has joined it. My explanation is that the political discussions we used to have around our dinner tables have moved out to the public sphere and become available for everyone of our 100+ friends and contacts on our social networks.
It is surprising to read in Sweden’s largest daily paper that social media would not matter in this election. I agree with Kristofer Björkman that it does, but maybe not in the traditional way. By the traditional way of communicating I mean that the companies or parties are convincing audiences through getting their message out, in commercials, posters, articles, etc. The traditional way on social media is that politicians and companies get their message out through social networks and that people have the possibility to reply, answer, ask questions and forward their messages. The whole idea with the 2.0 phenomena is that we have all received a public voice. But why should a new type of media follow the traditional one? The point with social media is that everyone is contributing and to criticize politicians for not being active enough on social media could be wrong. Social media is about a discussion between you and me, and we are discussing it pretty well, with or without the presence of political parties.