Facebook’s misguided ‘I Voted’ button lets everyone know just who voted and who did not—a stunning form of civic espionage.
When you log on to your Facebook account today, you will be confronted with dozens of digital proclamations flooding in from your friends, family and colleagues that they’ve voted and are damned pleased with themselves for exercising their civic duty. At least they believe it is their civic duty because they’ve been told so from a very young age, being reinforced constantly by others, including, now, Facebook.
The right to vote, however, is a right, not a duty. It is an external expression of a belief in a candidate, an ideology or ballot measure—at least that is what it was intended to be. Now it is merely an expression of a mass delusion that the political system is technically functional at best.
The Facebook I Voted button was probably a display of the companies best intentions—a simple desire to connect voters in an intimate albeit digital way for the midterm elections—to expand their database of social connections. Perhaps they should have thought of the various ways in which it is a bad idea. Let us count the ways:
What if a person (let’s not use the word ‘voter’) doesn’t feel represented by the field of candidates? We know that the usual choices are either Republican or Democrat, and we know there are nominal third-party candidates in various districts, but many people don’t identify with any of them. These people won’t be voting. And if a person’s ideology means they won’t be voting, how does the ‘I Voted’ button truly represent them as a person? And doesn’t the button create a mechanism for those who did vote to guilt others on election day?
What of all the people who believe the two-party system is a sleight-of-hand that allows power structures to exist relatively risk-free while citizens argue over partisan issues, losing themselves in one grand diversionary tactic? For these people, an “I Voted” declaration is as meaningless as it is insulting. The choice is either a Republican or Democrat, maybe a Green or Reform party candidate. But, the majority of people vote for either Republicans or Democrat, so the “I Voted” button signifies that a Facebook user has voted to maintain the system—broken as it is.
If Facebook truly wanted to connect all of its users, they might have considered contacting me first. I would have offered the following lists of possible buttons to satisfy the range of political opinions:
“I Didn’t Vote”
“I Didn’t Vote, Fuck You”
“Ask Me Why I Didn’t Vote’
“Goldman Sachs Didn’t Get My Vote, How Bout You?”
“Tell Me, How Have Your Past Votes Worked Out for You?”
“Sittin’ This One Out, Folks”
“I Don’t Need a Representative to Create Change in My Community”
“I Voted for Change in 2008 and Wall Street Walked Free”
For all the noise Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have made about not wanting to hand their creation over to the old boys’ club, they’ve certainly played right into their hands by reinforcing the status quo.
How you conduct yourself on election day is nobody’s business but your own.