ASUA campaigners take to The Facebook


By Dan Post
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, February 24, 2005

ASUA primary elections are next week. Who are the candidates again?

You mean, you haven't been canvassing dorms and standing on the mall passing out flyers to your friends?

There's a new alternative to personal interactions in campaigning for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona. Believe it or not, Thefacebook is the new classroom flyer.

In a development in the ever-broadening scope of creative politicking, campaigning for ASUA elections has turned to the Internet.

The revolution in campaigning is taking place on thefacebook.com, where groups supporting candidates for office have sprung up like last year's 527 groupnational election.

Could it be that ASUA is finally becoming popular among the student body? It's pretty easy to be cynical about ASUA, considering their inability to effect real change within the campus community, but its connection to Thefacebook is intriguing. I decided to investigate for myself.

Not a member of Thefacebook, I joined for purposes of "research." Little did I know what I'd be getting myself into.

I started my facebook experience a na´ve user. I had no interest in talking to people all over the country that, for one reason or another, I stopped talking to long ago. So I began checking out the ASUA facebook phenomenon in stealth mode (stalker mode?). No picture, no profile, just my name and e-mail.

The task was to gather the scope of Thefacebook's influence over ASUA elections. I tried a number of different searching strategies, and found some frightening results.

Every potential president has a group advertising their candidacy. Jacob Reuben wins the top prize among these student politicians with 431 members, plus he has a picture of himself and Salim Stoudamire to grab attention. Do these attributes make him more popular, or more likely to win the election? Is Jacob Reuben a better candidate because of his champion facebook group?

If I were Jacob, I wouldn't count on Thefacebook as scientific proof of anything (your group membership number is not a poll). But I would run with that Salim photo. If the UA beats Washington this weekend, the primary is yours.

I decided to search for the administrative vice presidential candidates, to see who among them had their own campaign groups (all of them do). But I was finding it hard to stay focused. I clicked on the membership listing of Fernando Ascencio's ASUA group, and ended up (after some browsing) at the 50 hottest women at the UA.

I searched for Keven Barker's name and found his administrative vice president support group.

Before I could discern anything about his platform, I found myself distracted by a Los Betos breakfast burrito on the screen. That's right, Los Betos has its own facebook group, and there is a president and vice president of breakfast burritos, and someone in charge of new membership education, "aka: pledge master."

I digress, but digression seems to be a growing theme of Thefacebook. It's not possible to spend time on Thefacebook without getting drawn into stalker mode.

I intended to use my facebook excursion as a tool to write a serious essay about the Internet's effect on ASUA elections, but I ended up looking at so many pictures that my head was spinning.

Despite being constantly sidetracked by the endless minutiae of students' lives, I still managed to learn plenty about facebook campaigners.

It seems that facebook campaigning is all in good fun. But in reality, facebook campaigners must take themselves pretty seriously. Why else would these people create a group in their own honor? This is just a part of the distorted reality in which facebook campaigners are immersed.

Nearly every candidate provided way too many mundane details about their lives in their profiles. Consider the gall it takes to list every single detail of one's daily life in a profile for the campus community to see, all in the name of winning a meaningless election.

Who are they kidding? Do voters really care about candidates' sex lives or what classes they are taking? This is not normal.

There are a few candidates for senate who aren't so self obsessed. They have no facebook group and aren't even registered users.

This could be an indication of reasonable expectations about ASUA, evidence that these candidates are more grounded.

They would be able to commit to the task at hand without being pulled away to the computer for illicit and gratuitous activities. Ask yourself this before you vote: Do we really want a bunch of facebook addicts running ASUA?

Dan Post is an anthropology and ecology senior. He can be reached at
letters@wildcat.arizona.edu. He predicts a clean sweep for the UA over the Washington schools this weekend.