Tired of hearing everyone’s opinions about the elections? Well it may be even harder to avoid now. On Tuesday, just weeks before the election, Facebook added a new feature that allows users to endorse candidates through their Facebook Pages.
On Facebook’s Help site, the process of endorsing a candidate is broken down into five simple steps:
- Select the Endorsement tab on the political figure’s Facebook Page
- Select Endorse
- Choose the audience you want to see your endorsement post
- Write something to go along with your post
- Select Post
“I thought it was a natural extension of Facebook’s role as the ‘phonebook’ in our lives as Ben Thompson likes to say. Facebook is more than a social network – it’s a digital representation of the lives of its users and their relationships,” said Ben Basche, the product marketing manager at Layer, in an interview with MediaFile.
This feature is only available for Pages categorized as “Politician, Political Figure, Political Candidate or Government Official,” according to the Help page.
If this is true, it’s important to the raise question of why Donald Trump’s Facebook page includes an Endorsement feature even though he is labeled a “Public Figure.”
Since Donald Trump constantly reminds voters that he is not a politician, it would make sense for his Facebook page to also not label him as one. This means that either Facebook decided to make the presidential candidate an exception to their rule or the Trump campaign had to reach out to Facebook first.
To ensure saliency of the feature beyond this election cycle, the endorsement feature goes beyond the presidential campaigns. Users also have the opportunity to endorse candidates for local races as well. Anyone keeping up with the Council of the District of Columbia can endorse candidates within the race, including Former Mayor Vincent Gray.
“Theoretically this could help organize local politics beyond just a candidate’s Facebook page,” said Basche. “If endorsements on Facebook do help get the word out for local candidates through word-of-mouth when otherwise they’d have to buy ads, that’s significant.”
The endorsement feature isn’t limited to politicians running in current races, either. Vice President Joe Biden’s Facebook Page also includes an endorsement if someone feels inclined to endorse him.
For Facebook users, like recent George Washington University alumna Taylor Capizola, endorsing a candidate is another way to share their political views with their connections.
“I endorsed her because I have been incredibly public with my political affiliation since the beginning of the general campaign season,” according to Capizola in an interview with MediaFile. Being raised in a strongly Republican home, she said she has “found a peace in talking about [her] beliefs on a social media platform” through the support of her friends online.
While social media can act as a safe space to discuss one’s political views, there’s still a concern that these platforms allow for confirmation bias where people are only exposing themselves to opinions that support their own views.
“Facebook already is quite polarized and so it’s likely to be another brick in the wall between the echo chambers,” said Basche.
But can this new feature have an impact one’s Facebook friends?
“I never thought my voice counted for anything,” said Capizola, until multiple Facebook friends reached out to her about how her posts swayed them to lean towards Hillary. “Since then, I’ve believed what I say and how I say it can change the way people think– as long as it is framed the right way. This campaign season has shown the highly integrated role social media platforms like Facebook play in our daily lives.
With features like endorsements, Facebook is creating new ways for people to connect with each other beyond simple content sharing and messaging.
“They’ve [Facebook] already tiptoed into this area with things like Safety Check and voter registration pushes,” said Basche, “So the fact that they would build in your ‘endorsement’ seems like just the logical extension of their role as the keeper of profiles.”
From Trump’s head nod to Twitter during the second debate to the Debate Commission thanking Facebook for their tremendous support at the start of last night’s debate, social media has transformed the way people participate in politics.
“Social media has changed this election to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and the election has changed social media as we know it,” says Capizola, “It has changed the way we exist, we talk, we listen. It has changed the way pollsters, politicians, political pundits, and candidates engage and learn. I love it too. I think we’ve needed politics to grow with the technological revolution, and I feel like 2016 has done the job.”