Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's a Small World After All

The world continues to get smaller, at least for those who use social media. What used to be six degrees of separation is now 4.74 degrees, according to a study done by Facebook

I can see how this advance in friendliness could be useful as a political tool. Think of it. A friend of my friend knows a friend of Stephen Harper's friend. If you are like me, and need help visualizing abstract ideas - and this is really abstract - here is a diagram.

Of course this assumes that Stephen Harper, and everyone in between, has a Facebook account. Assuming that they do - and assuming that I can figure out which of my friends' friends knows Stephen Harper's friend's friend - just think of the possibilities. "Hey Friend, can you message your friend who knows Stephen Harper's friend and tell him to ask his friend to meet with me and my friend so we can discuss funding for the fire service over a friendly cup of coffee?" Facebook just became a warmer, fuzzier place.

There's a lot hanging on this theory, so I did a little research. While I couldn't find that our First Minister is accepting friend requests, I did find his page, which you can visit and 'like' if you so choose. 67,320 people had already done so when I visited, which sounds like a lot until you do a little more research and find out that over 16 million Canadians are Facebook users.  That means only about .004% of Canadian Facebookers are fans of Stephen Harper's page. It's even less impressive when you dig a little deeper yet, and find out that an onion ring has over 162,000 fans.

I shouldn't be so harsh. Upsala Fire Department page only has 34 fans. But then, Upsala Fire Department isn't the leader of a majority government that manages the affairs of a G8 country. But if it were, I doubt that it would spend (almost) a billion dollars on a G8 summit, when there are small fire departments still driving 30 year old trucks.

Wow. I should research the degrees of separation between a light-hearted discussion about Facebook, and a political rant on perceived federal fiscal madness.

To get to the point (and there was a point) we have more tools at our disposal than ever before to accomplish the things we want to accomplish. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media can be among those tools . . . but we have to figure out how to get people's attention. The fact that an onion ring can garner more support than the Prime Minister shows that Canadians have a quirky side. If we bore them, they will 'unlike' us in droves.

Tim Labelle talks about firefighters' aversion to things political in his recent column at FireRescue1. While I don't believe we all have the stomach or the need to be politically active, we can all contribute to raising our profile. The bottom line is that people care about things that interest them. If we can interest them, they will care. Social media doesn't make people care (as Upsala Fire Department has proven) but it can be a tool to spread the word about things that people care about.

Perhaps it's time to start selling onion rings.

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