It seemed like an event worth passing on. In fact, I’ve tried to pass on many of the government 2.0 conversations of late, but last week’s Congressional Tweeting during Obama’s speech last week was flat out disturbing. While Congressional tweeting from 50 elected officials highlighted how hot Twitter has become, it also demonstrated an irresponsible use of power and taxpayer-paid salaries, and one of the worst cases of Shiny Object Syndrome I’ve seen to date (image: Capitol Building by mbell).
In discussions on Twitter, several folks thought it was wrong to take issue with the elected officials. I thought the media’s criticism was dead on. See, it’s great that the Twitterati love to see their tool spread, but what the hell did the tweeting have to do with effectively legislating and governing this country? Especially during one of the most challenging times the nation has faced?
Just an example of some of the Tweets (as reported by the Post):
“One doesn’t want to sound snarky, but it is nice not to see Cheney up there,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) announced as Obama entered the chamber.
“I did big wooohoo for Justice Ginsberg,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) broadcast, misspelling the name of the ailing Supreme Court justice. McCaskill could be seen applauding with BlackBerry in one hand.
“Capt Sully is here — awesome!” announced Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.), spotting the US Airways pilot in the gallery.
Then there was Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), in whose name this text message was sent at about the time the president spoke of the need to pull the country together: “Aggie basketball game is about to start on espn2 for those of you that aren’t going to bother watching pelosi smirk for the next hour.” A few minutes later, another message came through: “Disregard that last Tweet from a staffer.”
Nice astroturfing, Barton! And what a wonderful discussion of the actual speech and issues from Obama. I’m so glad we’re paying these clowns six figure salaries to run dysfunction junction on the Hill and now ALSO Tweet. What a wonderful conversation they’re providing to the American taxpayer about the recession, environmental issues, international affairs, etc., etc.
Just because a social media tool is exciting and hot, does not mean it should be used, regardless if the digeratti love to see it happen. Social media is a two-way relational media form. It requires meaningful conversations. From an organization like Congress, clowning around during a major speech versus opening policy decisions with your constituents are two very different things.
Instead of broadcasting crap on Twitter, Congressmen and women should explore how to engage and involve their stakeholders — and no, not the lobbiests — but the people they represent in policy discussions. They should use Twitter to engage them on what they think about Obama’s speech and policies, on how they would like them to represent them as their Trusted Servants, not ridiculous observations worthy of the Real Shaq.
Congressmen and women have a serious job. Their demeanor on and offline during a speech of this nature, during a time like this should reflect that. Period.
Social media offers governments — federal, state and local — a fantastic opportunity to do better work, to change the way government works, and to offer a new level of transparency. There are great barriers to this, as the Obama administration is already finding out.
It doesn’t help when our public servants, our government rushes to be hip, slick and cool to be seen adapting conversational media without any strategic thinking. We’d be better served if our paid representatives put their nose to the grindstone and work on ending issues like pork barreling bills, and oh yeah, that economy thing. Social media can help, but only if government uses it to achieve it’s mission. Otherwise, it’s just going to be the same old, same old.