In case we needed another reminder of the power of social networks, think about this as you go to the polls tomorrow: Updating your Facebook status to say that you voted makes it way more likely that your friends will vote, and that your friends’ friends will vote and that your friends’ friends’ friends will vote. This according to an amazing study that came out in Nature earlier this year by political scientist James Fowler and his colleagues at UC San Diego.
I had the chance to see Fowler talk about the study at a conference I attended in May (video below) and was completely blown away by him and his data. He and his colleagues looked at the Facebook activities of more than 60 million Americans during the 2010 elections and found that posting an “I Voted” button on your profile made it more likely that people you’ve never met would be more likely to vote.
“There has been a lot of interest in how online behavior affects other online behaviors. There has been a lot of interest in how real-world behaviors affect other real-world behaviors. What we have shown here is that those two worlds are not separate: the online world and the real world affect one another. And in this case, we find that this message that started online, that spread online, actually affected real-world behavior. It got a third of a million people to the polls.”
Pretty amazing. So after you pull the lever tomorrow for your candidates of choice, log into Facebook and remember that simply by updating your status you’re getting more people to head to the polls.
(Fowler on the Colbert Report)
(Fowler at the Activate Networks Summit here in Boston in May 2012)