Mitt Romney losing (Facebook) friends by the minute

November 9, 2012

Mitt Romney is losing 593 friends per hour – at least on Facebook today from 10 to 11 a.m. You can loiter on his page and watch them plummet by the second.

Refresh the page – 12.08 million. Refresh again – 15 less. A tongue-in-cheek website, DisappearingRomney.com, has even appeared to track the friend fall-off. It would seem the defeated presidential candidate faces a problem unique to the social media age: The race may be over, but on the Internet his bid for president remains as a frozen digital relic. 

That doesn’t mean the Romney campaign is still updating its social media profiles. The last change to Romney’s Facebook page came around noon on Wednesday, when the campaign changed his banner photo to a wistful Mitt waving goodbye during his concession speech. On Twitter, his last message dates from 6 p.m. on Election Day and asks supporters to vote.

That radio silence could explain why Mitt’s followers have been so quick to jump ship, though the erstwhile candidate could reinvent his online presence a la Sen. John McCain or former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Both have built vibrant virtual lives since losing their 2008 bid: Palin, in particular, has become a sort of cult pundit, earning tens of thousands of “likes” on her posts about Benghazi and energy independence.

Maybe the sudden follower fall-off supports criticism that Romney was not terribly well-liked by his party's base and those partisans are now looking for new party leaders to follow. (Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has seen a modest jump.) The dropping-off effect also has not afflicted lesser profile third-party candidates. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson's Facebook friend count rose during the same period that Romney’s fell. So did that of Green Party candidate Jill Stein. On Thursday, Stein was already posting again: “Our social movement is growing but there’s no time for rest,” she wrote. “Democracy doesn’t just happen on election day.”

For Romney, however, Election Day could really mark the end. Both Palin and McCain relaunched their Facebook pages around political action committees they created post-inauguration. Rumors of Romney’s next move, on the other hand, put him far from the political action – maybe working for non-profits or grandfathering full-time, according to the Boston Globe. If that turns out to be the case, Romney won’t have as much to tweet about. And his pages, despite the massive audiences they’ve built, run the risk of fading into Internet obscurity.

Just check out John McCain’s Myspace from 2008 – 134,000 friends, and nary a comment in the past four years.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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Natalie Jennings · November 9, 2012