Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Live Tweeting Lawmakers?

On the heels of ASAE's Great Ideas conference and the twitter about live tweeting during sessions, there's an article in today's Washington Post addressing the same thing: A Tale of 140 Characters, Plus the Ones in Congress--excellent headline, btw.

The article talks about lawmakers tweeting through Obama's speech to the joint session of congress. Tweets like "I did big wooohoo for Justice Ginsberg" and "Capt Sully is here -- awesome!" The author, Dana Milbank, likens the tweeting lawmakers to high school kids sending text messages from math class. He poses the question
"Should these guys maybe spend time fixing the country and leave the Twittering to somebody else?"

Are you kidding me? The article lists the number of followers for each of the three lawmakers featured as of the date of publication (today). As of the time I'm writing this post (7:30 pm), each of them have gained hundreds of new followers just since this morning. Look at Claire McCaskill; she has over 10,000 followers. You think she's going to walk away from that attention anytime soon? Hell, I feel like a rock star having 220 followers; I can't imagine what it would be like to have 10,000.

Twitter has made it so anyone can bask in a spotlight that would otherwise be unavailable. Pre-Twitter, it would never have occurred to anyone to ask "what are you doing?" on an ongoing 24/7 basis--nobody would have cared. Now anyone at all can have his or her own personal ticker tape, to which their fans--I mean followers--are riveted.

There's no doubt about it: Twitter is inherently narcissistic. Why would you bother sharing what you're doing with the world if you didn't think your every move was fascinating? If you're a private person or don't think what you do would be of interest to anyone, chances are you're not on Twitter. Or if you are, you're merely a lurker using it as a convenient RSS feed.

So who can blame these politicos for wanting to stand out from the crowd and be seen as more than serious guys/gals soberly flanking the President? What is politics other than one big popularity contest? And who are the popular kids? The witty ones, the smart ones, the glamorous ones...the ones who can spin any given moment's happenings into a 140-character piece of prose, for instance.

So back to the question about when these people are going to hand over the mike and get back to work: I say the answer is no time soon. It would be like asking a stand-up comedian fill a room then walk off the stage.

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