Last week Seth Godin proposed improving US presidential primaries by holding them on social media. As an outsider who is always startled to rediscover each time I watch the West Wing that US elections actively take up one-quarter of the executive term, I fully agree that the system could be improved, and that the internet is a fertile area for finding possible improvements. However, his argument is damaged by a rather weak assumption: that anyone who can be on Facebook, is.
I’m by no means a bleeding edge tech obsessive. However, I had a personal web presence when that meant uploading HTML documents to Geocities; nearly ten years before Facebook started. And in the decade since Facebook started, I haven’t created an account. Not because Facebook is too complex, but because of what you can’t do: control the way other people will assume I want to use it.
So I would find a voting mechanism that used Facebook exclusionary, not because of privacy concerns (although I’m wouldn’t trust Facebook with anything I didn’t want publicly available), but because it would bring the endless daily round of people posting and then assuming I knew; it would be exchanging the infrequent effort of considering who to vote for and doing it, for a daily research task on all of my friends.
I fully support using social networking to make voting easier, but not at the cost of having to join a particular site. So my counter-proposal is to have a site devoted to doing this that can post to, and aggregate from, all social media (in the same way I could have this post syndicate to many other sites automatically. This makes it equally accessible to people who prefer one site over another, or don’t want to be on social media at all.
Of course, the issue of whether we should be including the voices of people who aren’t engaged enough to overcome a certain level of difficulty is a more complex one; one that would obfuscate the point I set out to make: people who face neither a lack of internet nor a lack of technical skill can have good reason not to be on Facebook (or any other site).