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Social networking.

The election of Barack Obama ushered in the use of political networking that hadn't been seen before.

Amazingly, the message failed to register in the minds of the Republican candidates vying for votes as nominees.

Instead of recognising the potential that the Obama campaign exploited, Republican contenders have been raising huge capital contributions to support traditional speaking engagements and TV ads.

Even more amazing has been the recognition by the youth in both the Arab Spring and in the American Occupy campaigns to use the Obama's network success.

If, as Marshall McLuhan believed, "The media is the message", it becomes imperative to fully understand networking as media, especially when it comes to politics.

In a poll, Pew Internet & American Life Project found that only a quarter of social network users always or mostly agree with their friends' political posts.

The majority, 73 per cent, agrees with friends' posts "only sometimes".

When they do differ in opinion, 66pc usually ignore the offending post.

Just over a quarter (28pc), respond with their own posts and 5pc said they might respond depending on the circumstances.

One study of the Pew report made it clear that "Social media users unfriend those with contrary political opinions".

The message in that is the well-worn social advice: if you want to keep your friends, don't discuss politics.

According to Howard Kurtz, The Daily Beast and Newsweek's Washington bureau chief, "when you're living online, politics apparently gets in the way of friendship, just like when you're hosting a dinner party".

Ten per cent of social network users have blocked, unfriended or hidden someone because that person posted too frequently about political subjects and nine per cent have blocked someone because they posted something about politics or issues that they disagreed with or found offensive.

Kurz found that the large majority of people simply ignored posts they disagree with and "38pc say they were surprised to learn that the political leanings of others were different than they imagined".

Another of Kurz's interesting findings was that "16pc have followed or friended someone because that person shared the user's political views".

The latest and most remarkable use of networking is the video by Invisible Children, the non-profit group that produced a hugely popular half-hour documentary about the notorious African warlord Joseph Kony.

The group's "KONY 2012" video had been viewed more than 75 million times on YouTube by late Monday.

Invisible Children says it wants to make Kony a household name and drum up global support to end the murders, rapes, abuses and abductions committed by the Lord's Resistance Army in central Africa.

"KONY 2012" skyrocketed to popularity on YouTube, propelled by thousands of posts on Twitter and Facebook, says a CNN Wire.

According to Al Jazeera, "the charity is being criticised for its style of campaigning on the issue and the film has triggered a vigorous online debate about the film's accuracy".

Social networking accommodates a huge number of participants, with Facebook and Twitter taking the lead.

The interactive nature of the medium provides a platform for word of mouth advertising and promotion.

A social networking site is also a place where a user can create a profile and build a personal network that connects him or her to others.

One writer called social networking "the logical extension of our human tendencies towards togetherness".

If social networking can get a president elected, facilitate revolutions, help or hinder political dialogue and arouse global support for millions of abused children, it's a media with a spectacular message.

Copyright 2012 Al Hilal Publishing & Marketing Group

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Mar 17, 2012
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