Putting politicians back into the mould

How does a journalist show to the world that they just don’t understand the Internet and Social Media?

Well if you are a Times journalist by the name of Rachel Sylvester you would talk about Twitter and use terms like Dad-on-the-dance-floor and quote a psychologist who suggests that Twitter users have no identity. Ms. Sylvester’s article while filled with the requisite anti-Twitter catch phrase only shows just how out of phase some people are with it comes to things like Twitter.

Now before you go thinking that another hard core social media maven is jumping to the defence of Twitter let me assure you I am not. Twitter is a handy communication tool but it is not the end all be all that many would like the world to believe. If it disappeared tomorrow there would be a lot of gnashing of the teeth but in a very short space of time something would come along to fill that vacuum. Twitter is just the pretty face; and occasional fail whale, of a mass communication platform that could be implemented by anyone if the need was there.

This is the part that Ms. Sylvester doesn’t get – the communication platform that let’s people reach out in real-time to other people. For politicians the world round one of their biggest problems – and for the most part a self-made one – is that the people who elect them have no connection with them past the election day ballot. That might have been acceptable for my generation; and most definitely our parents generation, but those times are gone. We are know seeing the rise of generations where accountability is a keyword as well as the desire to know that the people we elect to office understand that it is because of us that they are there in the first place.

A 140 characters might seem like nothing in the larger scheme of things but to generations where PR spin was a practiced art, the chance to have people we put into positions of power literally a shout away is pretty powerful. Look politicians are pretty astute people; or they wouldn’t have gotten where they are, and they know the voter landscape is changing and in some ways changing really quickly. While this type of open and human politics will be gamed by some there are those who do understand and for them what they are doing is as Neil Williams saysa brave thing to be doing.

In this case the genie is out of the bottle and if the truth be known I have a lot more respect for politicians who uses these new tools the way they are meant to be used than I do for journalists like Rachel Sylvester. With every sentence in her article she shows the world just how myopic and backward thinking some people are. Of course it is easy to write a fluff piece slamming something you haven’t even taken the time to understand. At the same time it also shows the very thinking that is torpedoing the newspaper industry.

Oh and as for the psychologist, Oliver James, she quoted as saying

“Twittering stems from a lack of identity. It’s a constant update of who you are, what you are, where you are. Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity.”

I would dare you to say that to the faces of people like Chris Brogan, Brian Solis, Robert Scoble, Stowe Boyd …. I could go on for another whole page listing people who could prove that most idiotic statement as being patently false. So I would in turn suggest to Mr. James that he head back to his closet of psychotropic drugs because he is obviously living in a fantasy world.

Twitter might not be changing the world but what it is doing is giving the people using it a way to maintain a form of contact with the people that they elect to political office. It might not seem like much but it is one more way to make sure that the politicians know that they are being held accountable for what they do. That genie is out of the bottle and nothing is going to put it back – not even stupid articles like the one Ms. Sylvester wrote.

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