A few years ago, we used Facebook simply to connect with friends. Now the social network gives us insight into current events and noteworthy trends, in addition to our ex's new squeeze. This means that during election years, many users take to Facebook to rant about politics or search for nuggets of information on prospective candidates.
Facebook can also teach us important lessons about Election Day. Below we've rounded up some of the best things we learned from the social network on November 6, 2012 -- from where to get live updates about the country's voting patterns, to figuring out which of our friends are moving to Canada.
Do you access Facebook to receive political updates? How did you use social networks on Election Day? Sound off in the comments section below, or tweet your thoughts to @HuffPostTech. Then read more about why some people are quitting social media for election day (here).
Who's Voting And When
Facebook has created a "real-time heat map" that shows where Facebookers are voting across the country on Election Day 2012. Based on user-generated information, the social media site is projecting data on the age and gender of voters, as well as the peak times for voter activity in specific locations. <a href="http://www.facebookstories.com/vote">To access the map click (here)</a>.
Where You Can Vote
Finding out where to vote is simple: Use Facebook's <a href="https://www.facebook.com/uspolitics/app_292238230878288">Polling Place Locator</a> to type in your address and view your designated polling place. Facebook notes that "the app was developed with data from the non-partisan <a href="https://votinginfoproject.org/">Voting Information Project</a> and is a joint project of VIP, Facebook and Microsoft."
Not All Political Posts Are Trustworthy
Facebook is great for sharing pictures and blasts of information with friends, but you should be wary of what you're reading. Some of us have learned the hard way that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/fake-hurricane-sandy-photos-internet-northeast_n_2041283.html">false information can sometimes go viral on Facebook</a>. We now know better than to repost facts that random friends swear is "absolute truth." To figure you if what you're reading is just a bunch of malarky, ask your self the following: Does this statistic or report have a link to a legitimate source? (Here are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/05/fake-election-day-posts-facebook-twitter_n_2078149.html#slide=1720470">some more tips on spotting fake info on social networks</a>. )
Voting Is Contagious
Facebook has installed a button that pops up on eligible voters' profiles and posts a notification to their timeline stating, "I'm Voting" or "I'm a Voter." For the 2010 midterm election, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/notes/us-politics-on-facebook/election-day-2012-on-facebook/10151076006385882">Facebook stated</a> that over 12 million users clicked this button. So what does that mean? <a href="http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/facebook_fuels_the_friend_vote">A recent study conducted by the University of California</a> estimates that "about one third of a million more people showed up at the ballot box" because of this Facebook message. By showing someone how many of their friends voted, researchers discovered that more people felt compelled to head to the polls themselves (and then update their own profiles). This graphic shows how many people said (on Facebook) that said they had voted at time of publication.
How Long The Voting Process Takes
Have you checked out your friends' Facebook statuses today? Many voters are taking to Facebook to comment on how long it took them to fill out their ballots. For example, in post-<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/hurricane-sandy-2012">Hurricane Sandy</a> New York, some people are writing about transportation issues, advising friends to "be patient getting to your voting center!" Check your News Feed for a guesstimate of how long it may take you to vote, and try to give yourself enough time!
Which 'Friends' You'll Be Un-Friending
Oh, the political rants we wish our Facebook News Feed didn't subject us to! The inaccurate stats, the overabundance of exclamation marks and, of course, the in-your-face ALL CAPS tirades. Both a blessing and a curse, Facebook gives us a good overview of which "friends" we no longer want to hear from, at least until the election is over.
How To Avoid Politics Altogether
Let's face it: Sometimes Facebook isn't the place for a political debate. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the intense amount of Obama/Romney content bombarding your News Feed, why not block it all out? <a href="http://www.noppl.com/">Now you can with Chrome extension noppl</a>, short for "no politics, please." There's also <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2012/10/25/unpolitic-me-hides-political-posts-on-facebook-and-twitter/">Unpolitic.me</a>, a social media filter that lets you replace politics stories in your News Feed with adorable photos of cats.
Which Of Your Friends Are Moving To Canada
We've heard some friends who say they are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/11/05/americans-moving-to-canada-twitter_n_2078687.html?just_reloaded=1">moving to Canada</a> if Romney wins, and others who swear to high-tail it up north if Obama emerges the victor. We'll be watching our News Feed to see if any of them follow through tomorrow.
That It Is (In Fact) Election Day
If you are 18 or over and log on to your Facebook account on November 6, there should be a statement from the company that reminds you today is Election Day (in case you've been misinformed or hiding under a rock). So get out there and vote!
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