Breckenridge Buselli, a University of Colorado student, posted a Facebook status update favoring Republican nominee Mitt Romney during the first presidential debate -- and, poof, he was down eight friends just like that on the social-networking site.

That was his first and last political status update this election season.

In general, Buselli's guidelines have been to not post about politics, unless he's commenting on a political article because that can lead to an informed discussion and seems to be an appropriate context. Otherwise, he deletes people from his friend list if they're using their status updates as an online political soapbox.

"Basically, I don't think it's appropriate to broadcast political statuses to everyone on your friends list," said Buselli, a Libertarian. "I don't think that's any better than an advertisement."

Buselli, however, appears to be in the minority when it comes to social media and politics.

Two-thirds of social media users have used social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to post their thoughts about civic and political issues, react to others' postings, press friends to vote, "like" and link to others' content or follow candidates, according to findings released last month by the Pew Research Center.

Gone are the days -- buried on the lower rungs of Facebook timelines -- when politics were a taboo topic.


Advertisement

Steve Fenberg, the executive director of New Era Colorado, a youthful civic engagement group, said that populating Facebook with political posts is no more annoying than flooding news streams with cute baby photos or photos of dinner.

"Young people today live in a world and a time where it's normal to advertise what you believe to your friends -- and the world," Fenberg said. "It's the new form of bumper stickers on cars."

The campaign season, Fenberg said, has gotten longer and that could be contributing to people's political exhaust.

Rick Stevens, an associate professor in journalism at CU, said that the Millennial generation doesn't believe in privacy the way past generations have.

But, he said that he sees some advantages to the political banter on Facebook. For example, if somebody posts a politically charged opinion, it prompts those from different political perspectives to chime in with links to articles and facts.

"In that discussion, I think there is civic knowledge being traded and transferred," Stevens said.

Stevens also recognizes a new phenomenon with Internet memes in the political discourse -- just like sound bites were introduced after the debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

During the second presidential debate, when Romney made the "binders full of women" comment, memes went viral before the debate was even finished.

While Internet memes lack content, they appeal to people's emotions, Stevens said.

He noted that during the final debate, Romney's comment that the U.S. "Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917." Obama replied that there are also "fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed."

"I'm not entirely convinced that Barack Obama didn't intentionally launch that 'horses and bayonets' comment for a viral explosion," Stevens said.

CU student Alex Regendold, who voted early, casting her ballot for Obama, said that she enjoys all of the political back-and-forth happening on Facebook.

"I think it's important to hear other people's opinions so that I'm not just hearing one side as I make up my mind," she said.

Rachel Chalmann, a freshman from Atlanta, said that her friends from the south are mostly Republican and she doesn't mind their conservative-leaning posts, despite the fact that she plans to vote for Obama on Election Day.

But, she added, there is a generational difference in talking politics.

"My mom has never told us who she voted for and never will," Chalmann said.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com.