Last week, just minutes after winning the presidential election, Barack Obama sent an e-mail—to me.
“I’m about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first. We just made history.” We did, didn’t we? “We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I’ll be in touch soon about what comes next.” Signed: “Barack.”
I’ve been on a first-name basis with Barack, our President-elect, since he announced his candidacy nearly two years ago. And in recent months, I’ve received a “personalized” e-mail, Twitter tweet, YouTube video or Facebook update from Mr. Obama or his campaign staff almost daily, assuring me that we were in it together, that we could bring about the change that was so often referenced in 2008. If the communiqués had been from anyone other than my chosen candidate, I would have been annoyed; at times, it almost seemed like I was being Internet-stalked. But this made Mr. Obama just like me. Like my friends and big brother, Barack Obama is part of the Facebook generation.
And so it holds that a good chunk of the folks Mr. Obama will take to Washington with him in January are children of the Internet as well. Let’s call it the Facebook Administration. Sure, politicians have had Web pages and e-mail addresses for years. But so many of those fall easily out of date; their owners treat them with neglect and even contempt. This is different. For the first time, a White House administration is happily online, their profiles—personal and political—there for our perusal; we can express support, irritation or anger for our leaders, and the public, to see. Want to link to Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s Facebook page? Or tell him you hate his guts? He’s there on Facebook. Go for it!
In fact, when Mr. Emanuel accepted the position of Obama’s chief of staff on Nov. 7, Mr. Rahm’s Facebook “supporters” (as they’re called on Facebook politician pages) were sure to congratulate him. Some were already expressing demands: “As an American pianist, one wish I’ve had since meeting Richard M. Nixon in the 1980s, is to be an invited guest to perform for the First Family at the White House,” wrote Jeffrey Biegel, a New Yorker. “Perhaps during the new administration, my dream will become a reality.” Others were less enthusiastic about Mr. Emanuel’s new status: “This guy is a Mafioso,” wrote one Facebooker.
Someone else appears to have put up a fake personal page for Mr. Emanuel. At least, I assume it’s fake, because on that page he has only 19 friends.
And there are many other Facebookers whose names are being bandied about for top administration posts: Jason Furman, a senior economic adviser during the campaign (his profile picture is a snapshot of his baby girl); Jon Favreau, Mr. Obama’s head speechwriter, who has almost 600 Facebook friends; and Reggie Love, the President-elect’s personal aide, who is friends with Harold and Kumar’s Kal Penn!
CERTAINLY, MR. OBAMA aimed to be the Facebook President. In early 2007, his staff hired 24-year-old Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes to work on Mr. Obama’s new-media campaign. More than three million of Mr. Obama’s supporters signed up for the news updates, postings and videos on his page. There, they discovered his favorite music (Stevie Wonder) and TV show (Sportscenter). A phone number listed on the site connects directly to his campaign headquarters. But for the Facebook crowd, that wasn’t enough: They created more than 500 other Obama-related groups, including Generation Obama-Washington D.C. and One Million Strong for Barack. The Republican National Committee noted Mr. Obama’s popularity on the site and made a parody site, Barackbook.com, with mock updates like “Barack Obama is now friends with William Ayers.”