How’s Your Congressman’s Twitter?

At a moment in time when there seems to be more and more going on with American politics every single day, I think it is important for every person living in this country to also become more involved in local politics than most of us are currently.  While national policy decisions are undeniably important, it is the local politics that us citizens are best able to directly affect and influence.  It is at the local level that our voices can be better heard in order to create the changes we seek.  Therefore, I thought it would be fun to take a look at how social media has the potential play a significant role in creating more active citizens throughout the United States.

We are all already well aware of how our current President has a very loud presence on social media, especially on Twitter in particular.  Many have expressed concerns that he is using social media in a manner that is extremely inappropriate for an elected political figure, citing examples such as when he used both his personal Twitter account and the POTUS Twitter account to reprimand Nordstrom for its decision to drop his daughter Ivanka’s clothing brand (after Nordstrom did so for legitimate reasons that were related to the brand’s operations and sales performance).  But despite the widespread negative perception of this one political figure’s social media usage, there are still so many other ways that our mayors, congressmen, senators, and various others political representatives could potentially use social media in an positive manner.
One way I could begin looking at this is to take a look at the Twitter pages and activities of my hometown’s political representatives.  I had not previously followed their activities on Twitter, but I most certainly do now after looking into this topic.
For instance, the mayor of my hometown of Livingston, New Jersey is currently Shawn R. Klein.  And while there is not a Twitter page for him personally, there does exist one one for the town of Livingston, and that social media account is run through his office.  I found it quite interesting that the Livingston township’s Twitter page actually takes the time to regularly reassure the community members’ concerns, and oftentimes it even retweet tweets that were relevant for things happening around town.  There seems to be a lot of potential on the page, and I think there is a lot that could be done with it if only more of the town’s citizens were actively engaged with the page — there are currently very few followers in relation to the town’s overall population size, but if that following were to increase some more, it seems as though that social media page could actually be an incredibly useful tool for helping the people of my town become more engaged with the local political sphere, as currently, overall political engagement is not that high there.  Perhaps the social media accounts could even be used to increase turnout at future community events and town halls meetings.
I also took a look at the Twitter page for one of my state’s senators, Cory Booker.
CaptureIn comparison to the page for my mayor/hometown, Senator Booker’s page is much more active on a much larger scale, and that was naturally to be expected since he represents so many more people.  Most importantly though, it was great to find that I was able to actually learn a lot about his political activities and decisions based on his tweets, retweets, and the like.  Although I do try to keep up with what Senator Booker has been doing on behalf of his constituents, I am definitely not able to catch everything that has happened, as there is simply so much that goes on.  But just by scrolling through Senator Booker’s plentiful replies and statements on Twitter, I feel as though I have actually become a better informed citizen.  Several activities that may have previously slipped under the radar for me have now been brought to my attention, and I feel like a much more enlightened individual now that I am aware of them.
Similarly, I am sure there is a lot other people can learn from looking at, engaging with, and following their representatives’ social media accounts.  There is so much potential for active citizen engagement that is possible nowadays through the various social media platforms, and Twitter in particular has a lot of possibility to be used in a practical manner.  As we have discussed a few times in class about how different platforms are better suited for certain purposes, the way in which Twitter’s feed is set up naturally makes it one of the best social media platforms for people to use in keeping up to date with real time matters such as local politics.
So now my question for you is, what will you find from your local politician’s social media pages?  Go ahead and take a look.

5 comments

  1. I love how you compared different politician’s social media accounts. It is interesting how even though they all have the same goal, to represent the members of their communities, they all do this with different levels of openness. Recently I saw that Senator Thomas McElveen from South Carolina, gave up his twitter for lent. I find this very interesting as he had been using twitter as a way to communicate with his constituents. While I appreciate that he was so open about his faith and how he was giving something up for lent, I feel as though this open line of communication was for the members of the communities that he represents. It is almost as if they are being hurt instead of him giving up something meaningful to him.
    I also notice that a lot of local police stations have twitters. I personally love this as I can always check on my town’s police twitter account if I hear rumors of something happening in the town. It is a nice way to be kept in the loop.

  2. What will be interesting is whether there will be a tipping point where social media becomes the de facto town hall meeting. It seems like a way for politicians to better connect directly with constituents as well as a format that is conducive to maximizing the audience for a message. Reddit’s Ask Me Anythings are good example of public figures successfully interacting with people over the Internet, so there’s definitely demand for for it. I guess a better question is whether it’s as easy to hold politicians accountable by tweeting at them instead giving them a piece of your mind in person.

  3. Nice post. It certainly has been interesting to see how politicians using social media has changed over the past several years. It is certainly front-and-center now, but it has been an evolving trend over the past decade. Since Twitter is so central, though, its interesting to consider what happens when it is bought out and when. Could Trump govern without it?

  4. Great post Christine! I read a couple of years ago that they average Congressman spends about 20 hours a week on the phone trying to raise funds for their next Congressional election. I think it would be great if we could become more engaged with our Congressman/woman through social media so they could really understand what issues are important to their districts. Joe Kennedy III in MA 4th District is really strong on social media. He has been really strong on the opioid crisis and the resistance to the attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He is constantly posting great video content about what is going on down in Washington – he makes for a great Facebook follow.

  5. I enjoyed your post and as someone who tries to keep up with current politics I must admit I don’t follow my local legislators (or rather didn’t until I read this). It makes sense that Senator Booker would have a much more prominent and active digital presence as someone who is frequently in the national spotlight and may have presidential hopes but the lack of presence of other legislators is surprising considering how simple the mediums are to use and how broad the reach can be. I saw tons of mailers and traditional advertising during campaign season but saw very little on my social media about local elections indicating they are not putting in the effort there or don’t have the resources/knowledge to leverage these platforms.

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