Sunday, March 29, 2009

Facebook: more than just friends

I saw two vastly different examples this weekend about the use of Facebook for social organizing. Perhaps their motto should be “Facebook: More than just friends,” as they move past their old MySpace rivalry to simultaneously take on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Of course, Facebook (including a dedicated campaign application) was one of the tools that was credited with fueling the successful Obama campaign. One of Facebook founders, Chris Hughes, quit the company to head Obama’s new media efforts.

Consonant with the campaign success was the announcement Friday that students at UC Merced used Facebook to organize a successful letter writing campaign to convince First Lady Michelle Obama to speak at their graduation. It will be her only college commencement address this year.

The campus opened in 2003 and enrolled its first undergraduate students four years ago, so this year’s 400 graduates will include the first crop to spend their entire college career at the 815 acre campus.

The campus is the youngest and by all accounts the weakest of the University of California system, which includes the flagship Berkeley campus as well as UCLA, UCSD and six other campuses. The campus has high acceptance rates and low enrollment rates — for applicants outside the Central Valley, it is mainly a “safety school” to be used if nothing else pans out. One problem is that seven of the 10 schools are located in the desirable coastal strip of the state.

The visits by Mrs. Obama will certainly raise the school’s profile and awareness of its attractive new (but small) facilities. The students certainly should be commended for their gumption at attempting what might have seemed an impossible task.

At the other extreme (entirely) is the group “Tax Day Tea Party,” formed to protest President Obama’s economic policies. As one supported explained Friday:

In just over two weeks Americans will gather in cities across the country to rally against the big government tax and spend policies being proposed by the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress. Join the movement on tax day, April 15th. Find a tea party near you on the Nationwide Tax Day Tea Party website, Facebook page, or at Smart Girl Politics.
The group has a national Facebook group, and local Facebook groups for many of the 120 local protests that they are planning on April 15.

The effort is among the wave of efforts by conservatives to respond to Obama’s social networking successes at national organizing. However, the TDTP is explicitly outside the GOP sphere — perhaps because it doesn’t want to be tarnished by association with the GOP brand. It also seems to be more of an unfocused rejection of big government than a coherent political effort that in many ways seems like the second coming of Ross Perot.

1 comment:

UC Merced Communications said...

In reading your post, I have to wonder whether you’ve ever been to UC Merced or paid attention to recent news about the campus.

Though faculty and graduate students began research at the San Joaquin Valley campus in 2003, UC Merced did not open to undergraduates until September 2005, when the first crop of freshmen and transfer students were enrolled.

As of Fall 2008, UC Merced has a little more than 2,700 enrolled students – about 30 percent of whom hail from the California’s Central Valley. Students from the Bay Area make up 30 percent of the student body, while Los Angeles students account for 19 percent of UC Merced’s current student population. We believe this showcases that UC Merced has lived up to its promise of ensuring every UC-eligible high school graduate has the opportunity to pursue a high-quality, research-based college education.

For updated information regarding UC Merced’s enrollment data, visit

We are very excited about the initiative and ambition of our senior class in inviting First Lady Michelle Obama to speak at commencement, in addition to the students’ other accomplishments during their time at UC Merced.

To read more about the Class of 2009, check out our graduate profiles: