Let's be honest. We live in a time where social media is the media. Whether through Facebook, Twitter, or personal blogs, people are socializing and learning about their friends (and strangers) in a whole new way. Discussing and debating politics is not exempt from this social sharing. Back in 2008, it seemed like everyone on Facebook was posting about voting in the election with an "I Voted" badge that was showing up on the "newsfeeds" and "walls" of, what seemed like, everyone. Facebook was the forum for letting friends know that you could and did vote. Then, in 2010, during the midterm elections, foursquare, came out with an "I Voted" incentive that encouraged users to check into polling stations and receive badges upon check-in. Now, as we near the upcoming 2012 elections, another online source is using social media to catapult political participation and debate among Americans everywhere. WeForPresident is moving the debate on-line in a cool, social media friendly way.
In order to see how effective the site is or could be, I decided to tour around it myself, using my own opinions, prior knowledge, and social media skills (disclaimer: I'm not a tech-wiz).
I started with the word association game, where you're asked to type in one word that describes the pictured political persona. Because no one else can see your personal word association, it allows you to be as colorful as you want when describing those that are pictured. Everyone from Bo, the first dog, to Chris Christie, New Jersey's Governor, was up for scrutiny. For Bo, I went a little tame with the word, "Pup", where as Chris Christie, I felt was deserving of the title of "bully". As a New Jersey native, I've taken some issue with his politics over the last couple of years. At the end of the word association game, it tells you how many people also used your word to describe the person pictured. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks Newt Gingrich is "lumpy".
The debate topics crossed a wide range of relevant topics. There weren't too many specific opinions stated by those who had participated. It was all fairly diplomatic. The opinions were more general and either supported or negated the current system. When debating corporations, there was nothing too insightful, but most people agreed with the notion that "they're neither good nor evil, just not your friend." Obamacare had a similar diplomatic consensus. Most people agreed that it was a step in the right direction, but it wasn't perfect. The only place that people got jazzy was, ironically, as this is a HeadCount review, election reform. There were so many people passionate about changing the election day to a weekend or questioning campaign spending. I chimed in a bit here and there as I started to delve deeper into the website and I found myself disagreeing with some opinions, mostly on social issues.
The site's overall experience feels limited. There are only a few people interacting and it's not at the pace or magnitude of Facebook or Twitter. However, it has so much potential to be a way that younger generations integrate politics into their everyday lives by using online tools that they're already comfortable using. If you think you have something important and interesting to say, pop over to the website and say it. Maybe you'll stir up some controversy and be the next big thing... online.