Twitter and the Political Process
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 13th June, 2009
Whereas the Obama campaign last year thrust Facebook into the limelight as the social networking tool of preference for politicans who are cool — or a least care about connecting with the younger generation — Twitter has now vaulted into prime position as the instrument for quick and snappy communication, particularly in the love-hate interface between politics and the media. Though a comparatively late convert to the practice (despite the proselytising of my friend, Stephen Fry), I’ve been finding it hugely useful in recent weeks and have noted how one can enter into dialogue with politicians of other parties as well as with journalists and bloggers of all persuasions, who are quite happy to ‘follow’ one on Twitter, but who might not wish to ask or accept to be one’s Facebook ‘friend’, in case that were seen to be some kind of endorsement. And the same is true in the other direction! Moreover, the 140-character limit, while being constraining, is actually a very useful discipline, and when well-handled, can be as communicative as a Japanese haiku. As a means of posting a news ‘headline’ or a succinct political point, it is matchless.
Putting my journalist’s hat on for a moment, I suppose the event which really awakened me to Twitter’s impact and potential was the popular political movement in Moldova a few months back, when suddenly one could follow what was going on in the streets, as it happened, from among the people taking part. Something very similar has been occuring in Iran over the past couple of days, albeit often from a more partisan standpoint. God knows what the next great communicative breakthrough will be (thought transfer?), but for the time being, Twitter is a wonderful thing!