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Split Decision

by Olivia Rutt and Jaime Myslik

Politicians on social media

Embrace the ‘revolution’

It’s time for politicians to embrace social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram as a tool.

With almost 2.7 billion users worldwide, there’s a good chance that most of their constituents are on these sites.

When not running for office, social media can be used to update followers on important news, engage with locals in ways that weren’t previously possible, seek public opinion on a subject and develop a reputation.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is a skilled twitter user. His 346,000 followers look forward to his snarky responses. We’ll see if his Twitter fame will bring him success in the 2017 Alberta municipal elections.

Using social media can also help local mayors and councillors monitor ongoing issues. Just because a politician is not on social media, does not mean he/she is not being talked about. Joining in on conversations can show that these officials are listening.

It can also be fun to show that the public servant is not a stuffy individual.

Look at Toronto councillor Norm Kelly, the 75-year-old Twitter king. He has over 472,000 followers, even if he has the grossest hashtag ever (#6Dad, if you're wondering).

The biggest key for politicians to take away is that it’s a two-way communication medium. Engage with your constituents and embrace social media - because it’s here to stay.

– Olivia


What about face-to-face?

Social media has made a fast yet steady move to becoming one of the primary avenues for mass communication.

Yet there are repeated examples when “tweeters” or “Facebookers” communicate on social media in a way that would be socially unacceptable face-to-face.

And politicians are often the biggest culprits.

Take U.S. president-elect Donald Trump. He uses Twitter to fight personal vendettas – doing so time and time again since his election victory in November. Yet he has only held one press conference - one! - since his win.

Online communication may be quick and fast but it misses nuances, intonation and context. How can a politician expect to communicate effectively with constituents in just 140 characters or less?

Our local leaders, while not as vulgar and consistently failing on social media as Trump, have also repeatedly misused the tool. They engage in online conversations where locals vent frustrations, sometimes muddling the message rather than putting minds at ease.

Social media has its place in politics if it’s used correctly to offer fast, real-time information. But it should never be used as a soapbox or as a veil to say what the user would never say face-to-face.

It will be a sad day when our politicians favour sporadic tweets about what suits their fancy over  professional and informative public statements.

Or are we already there?

– Jaime

Vol 50 Issue 03


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