According to the U.S. Department of State, “likes” on Facebook can be measured.
In an almost comically wasteful use of the tax payer’s money, the U.S. Department of State spent about $630,000 to increase the number of “likes” on several of its Facebook pages, according to a recent report by the Office of the Inspector General.
While the U.S. national debt was growing to its present amount of $17 trillion, a bureau in the Department of State initiated two campaigns in 2011 and 2012 with the goal of “building global outreach platforms for engagement with foreign audiences by increasing the number of fans … primarily through advertising as well as through some page improvements.”
Though the report states an increase in fans of the Facebook pages from about 100,000 to more than 2 million, it is appalling to think the government is dedicating so much resources to its Facebook page when just a few months ago Congress shut down the government in a debate over the budget.
After the campaigns, many government employees criticized the spending as “buying fans” who have no real interest in the Facebook.
Though most college students could advise doing something for Facebook “likes” probably wouldn’t really amount in much besides a fleeting sense of pride, the Inspector General found a consensus that “developing numbers of Facebook followers and Twitter fans may not lead automatically to target audience engagement.”
The official recommendation in the report is to “clarify the respective scope, roles, and responsibilities” of the program.
Thinking about it, government entities can be thought of like the growing group of retirees and grandparents on Facebook. They don’t log on often or post anything useful besides the occasional holiday greeting. At least when the elderly use Facebook, it’s a cute photo of the new baby in the extended family – something a federal entity shouldn’t really do.
Though a digital following on social media can create an almost instant celebrity for people who can now make successful careers just by creating and sharing YouTube videos. The followings, however, are almost exclusively reserved for those in the entertainment and communication industries – not so much politics or national affairs.
For most people, a “like” on Facebook is essentially useless. Anyone, which is almost everyone in today’s digital age, with a Facebook profile knows “likes” can be spent as much or as little as the heart desires and can even be given to one’s own posts.
Worthless as “likes” are, the government decided to invest more than half a million dollars on a digital currency spent primarily on pictures of cats and selfies.
Before the government gets swept up in the next Internet trend, someone should step in during the planning phases and put social media into context.
Alex Rosenthal is a sophomore majoring in mass