While I completed this observation on 18 and 19 February, I observe this phenomenon daily on the Internet and in the external world. I have observed all varieties of propaganda in the everyday for far longer than Facebook has been around, Facebook exemplifies what is most fascinating about this phenomenon: the example of unintentional propaganda of an artist’s performance at a Renaissance Faire and the unintentional propaganda “like” of a large music information web site on the top right. Both are examples of small group propaganda in the social network sphere. They appear on the pages of the companies in question, and they appear on the artists’ pages themselves.
There are hundreds if not thousands of other examples that appear in my Facebook feed if I chose to follow it for 24 hours straight or longer. Just compound that a thousand fold for everyone with a Facebook profile who follows bands and even those who “like” products and companies. For now, I am going to observe my feed a fraction of that time, but I will keep a record of the observations for reflection later. Visualize along with me, because the visual aids would fill several books.
There are even examples of intentional propaganda on companies’ Facebook pages as well as artists’ pages, but the unintentional propaganda that happens between the followers of these pages and their friends and acquaintances is far more common and far more prevalent. Friends tell friends their likes and those friends tell their friends. Erving Goffman discusses this throughout Frame Analysis where he analyzes the dynamics of small group influence, who dominates, who follows, who conforms to reach the prestige of the group within the social.
One band page observed indicates that he is on tour. His intention may be to directly connect with friends and let them know where he is in the world, but the effect is unintentional propaganda. He is engaging in propaganda, but he doesn’t necessarily realize he is doing it. His friends reply to his posts that, in turn, cause those original posts to appear in several other Facebook feeds, so the unintentional propaganda campaign is spread across several Facebook pages. It is effective on a small scale to reach friends for a regional music tour, but to reach hundreds and thousands more, this process must be repeated several times over for a major label artist. It happens every day in just this way when major labels, major corporations, and long-established artists engage in definitive intentional propaganda to reach a level of unintentional propaganda with their “fans”.
In another post on a Facebook feed, a friend reposts a link from an artist he likes to show all of his friends, to spread the word far and wide, to generate publicity-propaganda, to create a “buzz” among friends in the tour’s path to attend the show and also spread the word even more. Facebook performs this domino effect every day, every minute.
It becomes more effective on a grander scale with major label artists who can hire interns or employees who past news on these pages the minute it happens. In the case of the Beatles fan page, its reach is several thousand fans as well as 98 of my own Facebook friends. This is still small group propaganda from small group to small group and from friend to friend but magnified a thousand fold.
To cite a more contemporary artist, Beyonce, just to verify the observation from the Beatles Page, the reach is several thousand more with only a handful of “likes” among my friends. This means the reach is still there among several thousand friends and acquaintances, but it is at a much more effective depth because of her current place in modern pop culture as well as her newsworthiness (yet another aspect of unintentional propaganda by the news media).