Facebook was forever changed by these most recent US Presidential elections. I read that Facebook traffic skyrocketed the day of the election. Other than that, I think the elections had a far more negative affect for Facebook. Personally, I tried to stay away from Facebook about a month out from the election. I noticed a number of my other friends doing the same.
I also noticed a number of friends sharing their thoughts and sharing articles about their candidate of choice. This usually included a statement of how evil the other candidate was. This would drive nasty comments and polarization. I saw a number of posts where my contacts mentioned de-friending people based upon statements they had made. This happened quite a bit on days that included major events, like the Supreme Court ruling on the healthcare law.
This polarization around one of the two candidates will have a far-reaching impact. When users sign up for Facebook, they are inundated with friend requests from people from high school, college, etc. Usually, people connect with a number of different people from their past from a number of different walks of life and viewpoints.
Unfortunately, one of the negative side effects of the recent campaign and subsequent de-friending or blocking is that people will no longer be exposed to as many differing opinions through their Facebook connections. In this case, instead of the Internet opening up potential viewpoints, this will result in people be surrounded by like-minded connections, which will further feed the illusion that one way of thinking is the correct way of thinking.
I know that Facebook is not the only place where people are exposed to ideas. However, Facebook is one of the most visited websites and one where the most time is spent. I’d be curious to see before and after traffic to Facebook in a few months and see if traffic has died down since the election.