Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn
What’s the Latest Development?
More evidence that social networks influence the behavior of millions comes from a new study showing that posting election-day information on Facebook — pictures of friends who voted as well as messages endorsing voting — dramatically increased the number of people who sought out additional political data and headed out to the polls. On Election Day 2010, using a group of over 60 million Facebook members as subjects, researchers posted a message and friend photos to one set, a message without photos to another set, and no message at all to a third set. People in the first set “were 2 percent more likely to say they voted and close to half a percent more likely to actually vote.” Turnout results did not change for people in the second and third sets.
What’s the Big Idea?
This, the largest experiment of its kind, is the latest in a series of studies on how massive participation in online social networks affects real-world behavior. Social pressure in the form of messages and friends’ recommendations can be used to encourage a variety of outcomes, from purchasing certain products to taking actions to improve individual health. The penetration of Facebook and other companies of this type cannot be underestimated: “Five years ago, none of these [social networks] existed. Now, each of [them] sends trillions of digital signals every day” to people all over the world.
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