To Tweet is to be a Twit?

obama

I have not been on Twitter for long. When I joined I went through the usual ho-hum of choosing who to follow. Not familiar with any ‘tweeting celebs’ I choose people who I already knew of due to their mainstream celebrity status.

As a result of this I am currently following a multitude of English comedians, politicians and B-grade celebrities.

Two of my favourites, out of this very shallow and hastily chosen pool, are the comedic tidbits of Stephen Fry and the political sign posting of Barack Obama.

I choose to follow Obama as I appreciate the power of Twitter in a political setting. By avoiding a dependency on the media, and going straight to the people that vote, Obama and his staffers have a chance to say things the way they want them to be said. At the same time, Twitter allows them to create a personal relationship with their audience. It gets even better because Twitter’s character restrictions mean that Barack’s team publish highlights that are easy to read, allowing people to read what interests them. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have also been used by Barack’s staff to create a more personal, less formal president. Intimate family portraits and pictures of the dog make the president friendly,  seemingly accessible, and transparent. This creates a feeling of connection with voters and also a sense of accountability, an image that traditionally has  been difficult for politicians to cultivate.

However, greater accessibility also means that people who oppose Obama are more capable of voicing their displeasure. An Obama quote aimed at declaring his resolve to get things moving has both positive and negative responses.

BARACK OBAMA 24 JULY

  1. “We’ve got to get moving … I’m not going to wait for Congress.” —President Obama on providing Americans with #ABetterBargain

RESPONSES

  1. @BarackObama fuck my bitch please.
  2. @BarackObama This is more than good with you and you are always better
  3. Not a Dictator RT @BarackObama “We’ve got to get moving … I’m not going to wait for Congress.”

This transparency is at a cost but it is an important factor in enabling people to remain informed and an important way to reach people in an age of media cynicism. Reaching out to a society that feels that media continues to pursue a depressing and cynical model of journalism.

Stephen Fry in contrast enjoys Twitter as a personal monologue of recommendations and personal views.  This works as well as Obama’s political rhetoric showing the diversity and scope of Twitter. Contributing a lot to gay rights and the arts, Stephen Fry’s nearly 6 million followers have proven to be an avid audience and one that he can access to promote his ideals. Stephen Fry the person (or business?) has a free and devoted following that creates influence and success for Fry’s enterprises and causes.

Whatever form Twitter is used in the risks of social media in a public forum are the same as they were for traditional question and answer formats. The personality is exposed and opinions of many recorded and publicised.

Twitter is a useful flagging tool allowing communication and publicity to other online publications and media. It is a valuable source and the accountability of those who use it needs to be a feature in a new age of communication.  Comments need to be responded to respectfully, not ignored, and it should be used both as a feedback tool and a communication device.

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