Alongside BuzzFeed’s latest “Tasty” cooking video and pictures of their pooch, Facebook users can now share presidential endorsements.
The feature launched Tuesday allows users to click an endorsement tab on a candidate’s Facebook page. Along with this virtual endorsement, users can write a short explanation. And their choice and message can also be made public.
Facebook and other social media platforms have become more political this election season. They have live-streamed the major party conventions and presidential debates, urged eligible voters to register in time, and now label users’ political leanings. As this vitriolic election appears to have stressed out a majority of American adults, however, some tech culture critics wonder if the new Facebook feature is just too much.
"Don't some humans, indeed, rather prefer Facebook to be a haven away from an election campaign ... ?," writes CNET’s Chris Matyszczyk.
Facebook explained its rationale to Mr. Matyszczyk: "Similar to how politicians, newspapers, and organizations endorse candidates for elected office, this feature allows anyone on Facebook to do the same," said Samidh Chakrabarti, the product manager for civic engagement at Facebook.
To endorse your favorite presidential candidate, visit his or her Facebook page. There, find and click the endorsement tab on the left. Facebook will ask you who you want to share your pick with (private or public), and if you want to write something to be included in your post.
The kicker is if you choose to make your endorsement public, the candidate can feature your endorsement on their Facebook page. Your endorsement will also be available for any future political campaigns, providing candidates have enabled it on their page, according to The Verge.
The endorsement feature is also available for down-ballot politicians.
This election season, Facebook has joined the likes of Twitter and Snapchat in offering users more chances for civic engagement. Twitter live-streamed the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Facebook and Twitter announced plans to broadcast all three presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And they all participated in a get-out-to-vote campaign that urged eligible voters to update their registration or register for the first time. But these opportunities come as users’ newsfeeds are flooded with politics (just scroll through yours) and political advertising.
Campaigns continue to spend more on digital advertising. In 2010, online advertising accounted for 1.2 percent of all the money Congressional candidates spent on media, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, as reported by Mother Jones. By 2014, online advertising accounted for 5.5 percent of all money spent. Larry Grisolano, who oversaw paid advertising efforts for the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns, predicted in June 2015 that the presidential campaigns will devote nearly a quarter of their spending to digital media.
Targeted advertising gained a new weapon recently, as Facebook now labels users’ political leanings as liberal, conservative, or moderate. It does so, by collecting information about users.
This deluge of political advertising and messaging could be contributing to the significant stress Americans report feeling this election, according to a new study from the American Psychological Association (APA).
"Election stress becomes exacerbated by arguments, stories, images and video on social media that can heighten concern and frustration, particularly with thousands of comments that can range from factual to hostile or even inflammatory," Lynn Bufka, APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy said in a statement.
In response to a survey it carried out that found 52 percent of adults said the 2016 election season was a "very" or "somewhat significant" source of stress for them, the APA recommends reading just enough news to stay informed. It also recommends avoiding political discussions, especially heated ones. "Turn off the newsfeed or take a digital break. Take some time for yourself, go for a walk, or spend time with friends and family doing things that you enjoy," the APA advises.
Seen in a positive light, the new Facebook endorsement feature could be an end-all to avoid too much political reading online. It could be a chance to post something in "the spirit of bipartisanship or the meaning of democracy," writes The Verge’s James Vincent.
But even that might be too much for friends who read your feed and simply want a break from political bashing.
"I fear that this feature might only encourage some Facebook users to openly connect with a virtual punch," writes Matyszczyk.