Facebook has enabled its 24 million active users to launch polls — for a fee. This move is said to be the start of a "new era" of social networking. According to the Facebook poll site, you can instantly find out what 25 million people think. "For as little as $6, Facebook Polls let you ask 18-24 year olds what’s hip, ask people in New York who they’re voting for, or even ask "Grey’s Anatomy" fans if they’ll actually watch the new spin-off." You can target polls by gender, age, location, favourite music, movies, TV shows, books, etc, and get answers in 30 mins. The "sample poll" they provide asks "Who did you vote for in American Idol today". The winner? "I did not vote" (50 %). (Jordin Sparks got 28% and Blake Lewis 22%, whoever they are — please don’t tell me). Of the 610 respondents, 423 answers were from women, 170 from men; 421 were 18-24 years old, etc. (I suppose all this assumes that you have set up your Facebook profile honestly in the first place.) You get the drift, anyway.
Facebook is one of the first large social networks to turn their membership into a real-time polling community: you can expect "other large consumer-oriented sites" (mentioning no names) to follow suit.
Whatever one may think about this (the results are not statistically valid), I had an interesting conversation with one of my neighbours this morning whom I met while taking a load of books and clothes down to the Oxfam shop. She told me which university her son has applied for: he’s just done his A-levels and is waiting to see if he gets the required grades. She said that he’s joined a Facebook group for this year’s applicants. Isn’t that nice? It makes such a change from "my day", when you just turned up on day 1, knowing nothing and nobody.