When I first heard about Twitter, I assumed it was a fad. I would read online about how celebrities were using Twitter as a way to update fans about their daily lives. I automatically associated Twitter with the guilty-pleasure tabloid magazines I would read at the grocery store checkout counter. The thought didn’t even cross my mind that Twitter could potentially be a major communication tool in politics. Well, it’s safe to say I was in for a shock.
I’ve been tweeting regularly for about a month. I’m learning quickly that Twitter is more than 140 character updates; it is a way to ask questions, learn about people’s interests and get a conversation going. One of the biggest conversations going on right now is about the midterm elections. Republicans, Democrats and Independents are sharing insights about campaign strategy, healthcare legislation, environmental policy and many other topics affecting the upcoming elections.
Richard Adams of The Guardian has an excellent live blog that features news and insights about the midterm election Twitter conversation: http://tiny.cc/4swbt. Campaign advertising is a recurring topic in the twittersphere.
Adams cites polling guru, Nate Silver’s recent tweet:
“There’s a good argument to be made that Whitman and McMahon would be better off if they’d run fewer commercials.”
I could not agree more! When someone runs for office, he or she is representing the people. Instead of attacking opponents, let’s try to bridge the gap between the “average Joe” and “Senator X.” There are many candidates who are taking advantage of new media—creating Facebook and Twitter accounts, posting pictures, writing blogs and responding to inquiries at iTownhall meetings.
I’m not completely discrediting traditional media. Campaign advertisements do have a large effect on certain demographics. In his blog, Adams cites a Harvard poll that looks at the 18-29 year-old demographic. Just 40% will definitely vote in November and just 25% say they are politically engaged. College students are one of the largest groups using social media tools, so why wouldn’t a candidate jump on the Twitter bandwagon? I just feel, especially with young college students, there is a need for authenticity and transparency. I want to be able to interact with the candidate. I want to know that someone is listening.
If candidates are looking to motivate young people to get to the polls, then they should do just that—motivate! Motivation is not found in petty attack ads; it is found in authentic conversation that gives a reason as to why it is important to support or oppose a particular candidate.