Is Facebook Becoming a Pest for Political Campaigns?

I was born in the year 1993, which lets you know three of my undeniable characteristics: social media is my preferred form of communication, my phone is always glued to my hand, and LinkedIn is my new best friend. Why? Because I am a Millennial.

The majority of Millennials (71%), check social media sites at least once a day, which is even more than we text (49%). It is our connection to the world—our addiction that keeps us pressing re-fresh to devour the latest news and updates. We look to programs like Last Week Tonight and the Daily Show for our daily dose of political news because both Jon Stewart and John Oliver know that a news source that cheekily incorporates twitter call-to-actions and political satire will invariably cause Millennial worship.

On November 20, 2014, The Florida State University became #FSUnited all across social media after there was a reported shooting in the campus library. Information during the shooting went viral on Facebook and Twitter before hitting the major news outlets, giving us a continuous stream of updates. The majority of posts were videos, and then at 1:51 am, a tweet was posted “Police with assault rifles inside Strozier Library #fsu”.

We get our news through social media, and we are able to do so due to the amount of shared posts. If for some reason you did not want to read anything about the shooting, you would have had to avoid social media completely for a couple of weeks. Not only was everyone posting individually, but they were sharing each other’s posts; so if you were not reached by the original, you would eventually see it multiple times through its shares. In this case it was a good thing that everyone was sharing the same story, but on a normal day these replicated posts and articles make you feel like you’re drowning in your own News Feed.

Over the past few days, my Facebook News Feed has been filled with articles and statuses referring to Donald Trump’s bid for the 2016 election. I read the first few, but then it started—the endless stream of replicated articles that takeover. This is partly due to everyone sharing or liking the exact same article, but also because news outlets churn out replicated articles that coincide with the latest trending news, and I can’t get away from it.

At the end of last year, Facebook updated their news feed algorithm. Facebook added a filter that determines what posts will show on your newsfeed by focusing on content that relate to your likes, interests, and articles you’ve previously clicked through. It is recorded that as much as 72% of new material on your friends and subscribed pages never make it on to your news feed. This is a problem when it comes to political campaigning, particularly for Millennial voters who get their campaign information from social media. It has been said that Millennials rely on Facebook more than any other generation for our political updates, and that we are going to either make or break this upcoming election.

News sources such as USA Today, The New Yorker, and MSNBC are followed by Gen Xers and the Baby Boomers, while the Millennials have a higher rate of using Google News and Buzzfeed as sources. But those statistics don’t take into account that Millienials are accessing these major news outlets through their Facebook and Twitter News Feed. With that being said, Facebook’s new filter tends to only show us political content that re-affirms our political ideology. For example, in the average conservative’s News Feed, about 5% of liberal-leaning articles are cut out, and surprisingly enough, for a liberal’s News Feed, about 8% of conservative-leaning articles are cut out. By just clicking on one Washington Post article declaring Trump’s bid, my News Feed is now currently on Trump overload. Maybe during the campaigns, we should consider switching from “top stories” to “most recent”, and take a browse through some articles that may stray away from our ideological standpoint.