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When Councillors take to the tweets

March 7, 2014

Cyber CandyI have taken to listening to those Dartford twitter conversations which include one or more of our local Councillors.

What I mean is – I have taken to listening rather than answering or challenging.  This is recent and I still lapse. But when I do lapse, I now try to ask flat factual questions, or seek clarification.

I’m aiming for listening mode, with this particular group, because otherwise I will become part of the problem. I will be positioned, whether I like it or not, on one ‘side’ or other and before you know it I will be affirming that label as I fight back in ill-tempered ways.

Instead, I think it would be useful for someone to step back and look at a bigger picture, look across several of the recent arguments and what they are about. Then I can do a better job [certainly better than in 140 characters] of explaining what it is that is making me quite angry… why it’s the way and not the what that makes me want to react.

I’m going to tee up some questions to help with this. I’ll stop when I’ve reached my ‘word ration’ for the day, and carry on tomorrow. The list for now, and I’m not going even going to scratch the surface today, is:

  1. What do I think Politicians should use social media for?
  2. What is Engagement?
  3. Are you local?
  4. When are you… ‘you’…  and when are you ‘a politician’ ?
  5. Do anonymous or one-dimensional twitter accounts matter?
  6. Is it war, or peaceful construction?
  7. Is there such a thing as ‘just information’ ?
  8. Do we need local ‘war’ to stop people being bored by Politics?
  9. What is Politics anyway?

So:

  1. What do I think Politicians should use social media for? I think they should use it to Engage with the people who they represent, or want to earn the right to represent. That is all the people who are eligible to vote for them. In this case, that’s all such people who use social media or who might come to use it in the next year or two. I think they should also use it to share information which is relevant to local decision making, or to help people understand the place they live in and how it is changing. I think that they should not use it as a one-way broadcast channel to push political messages or, in particular, messages which focus on the shortcomings of their political opponents – be that individuals or parties. Why? Because it is a waste of the unique multi-way channel that social media has gifted us – particularly if it tells everyone else that this is the ‘standard’ way that Politicians are going to carry on using it. Because it is disrespectful to other people who use social media. Ultimately because it diminishes the role that those Politicians occupy. So what I’m saying to people who use social media in that way is not, “This is a kind of social media ‘sin’ that makes you a bad person!”. I’m saying, “This is a mistake. There are better ways than this to get what you want. Unless…”

More of these questions and answers tomorrow… or at least the day after. This feels like starting to blog all over again. I wonder if, like Thomas Sterne, I’m going to find that life moves faster than I can write it down!!!

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