We can’t tell our friends apart anymore: a friendly ASUC election rant

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ASUC elections have descended upon in full and massive swing. Amidst the many campaign announcements from CalServe, Student Action, third parties SQUELCH! and the Cooperative Movement, and independent candidates, we are well aware of this. We’re bracing ourselves for the madness on Sproul that the upcoming weeks will deliver, but this can be managed pretty well one you get the hang of it.  (We’ve already written some friendly election tips of our own.)Do you want to know an election side-effect that really messes us up, one that is often overlooked but even more insidious?

Facebook. Profile. Pictures.

Perhaps you’ve noticed it too. Around the time of candidate announcements, everyone starts changing their profile pictures to a candidate or slate they support. And if you’re friends with many politically-inclined people, your entire Berkeley friend-base starts to blur in a wave of super shiny ASUC headshots. Now don’t get us wrong, being politically active on campus is a wonderful thing! It’s great when people put their all into a cause they sincerely believe in. But it’s not so great (or perhaps mildly annoying) when you literally don’t know who anyone is anymore.

Facebook profile pictures are a great shorthand for quickly identifying someone in a conversation. That’s why it’s great when someone keeps their pic for awhile: we see it, internalize it and forever connect it with that person. Most of the time, we don’t even rely on their name to establish their identity! In times like these, this is a particularly dangerous habit. It’s bad enough when one friend changes their picture, but half of your Berkeley friends, changing their pictures to pictures of other people, all around the same time? Facebook turns into a brain explosion of confusion.

The worst is the overlap. Surely, many of your friends might all support the same candidate, and thus all turn into that candidate online. And then, they take it even further and all join into the same conversation thread. Has that happened to anyone else? That situation is actually a nightmare. We swear that they sometimes do it on purpose just to cause widespread confusion to their mutual friends. No longer can you rely on the one picture to recognize someone because in effect, they are all the same person. During these months, you actually have to read their name to know who they are, which wastes approximately 1.03 seconds of time you could’ve spent wasting on other areas of Facebook. All in all, it’s a just hassle we’re just not accustomed to.

But because this is such a problem for us, that means it’s a powerful tool for getting the campaign word out! In this visually dominant culture, we take for granted how much we rely on visual cues. By being bombarded online by all these beautiful smiling faces on the daily, we remember them, and at the very least become acutely aware of their social media presence and maybe even their platforms. Some solid media marketing. But it still stands: friends, we miss your online faces. See you in a month!

Contact Hailey Simpson at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @hailey117.

Image source: Ghirson, under Creative Commons.