One of the much vaunted advantages of social media is that it is possible to have a conversation about issues, rather than just publish information and opinions in the traditional way. So politicians, journalists, and the hangers on and wannabees that surround politics can now converse with us about the issues that concern us, rather than trot out the usual platitudes. But when they do venture online, what are their real intentions, and who are they really talking to?
On Twitter I follow a range of politicians, journalists, and commentators from a range of parties. I am open to listening to what they have to say, and to respond if and when I feel like it. But it’s very rare that I do, for the simple reason that they are using Twitter not to engage in conversation, but to just score points by slagging off their opponents. So why bother using social media, if they are going to use the same tired tactics they employ with traditional media. Are they talking to me, or just to each other?
If I take today as an example, we had the usual ding dong on the Andrew Marr show about the economy. One party dismissing the other, and vice versa, but very little promotion of their own ideas. This was interspersed with the paper review, where people working in that industry seek to perpetuate the myth that the printed media is the be all and end all, whereas in fact this is an industry that is losing readers, relevance, and importance each and every day.
Later this morning, the news included the sad and tragic deaths of a soldier in Afghanistan, a crewman on a cargo ship, and the Welsh football manager Gary Speed. There was a lot of Twitter traffic around these events, but after some initial expressions of grief the politicos reverted to type.
Each party rolled out polls saying how bad the other was, and then I caught the tail end of some inane debate about the rebranding of the Lib Dems, with numerous political anoraks thinking their comments were both poignant and amusing. They were neither. And when you consider what else had happened today, what possessed them to think that the rest of us cared?
Now I could easily remedy my frustration with these political lightweights and simply unfollow them. But they are supposed to be the people of influence, the guardians of our future, and yet they seem unable to stop themselves from making statements, rather than using social media in the way it was meant to be used.
The world is changing, as is the way we communicate. Social media provides a fantastic opportunity for the worlds of politics and journalism to drag their reputations out of the gutter they currently reside in, and yet they seem to be stuck in the past.
Don’t take us for fools, we know when you’re just ticking boxes. Talk to us, listen to what we say, otherwise we’ll simply ignore you.