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Citizens and politicians interacting via social media can be beneficial or futile

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In recent years, social media is commonly used by both citizens and politicians.

In recent years, social media is commonly used by both citizens and politicians.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

In recent years, social media is commonly used by both citizens and politicians.

Linda Badaracco

With political posts frequently making headlines for better or for worse, politicians’ social media communication is front and center in the public eye.

As of 2014, 16 percent of registered voters follow politicians on a social media site, according to Pew Research Center. This share of voters doubled since 2010 and included 24 percent of voters ages 18 to 29.

But Emily Ellsworth, a freelance writer who worked for Utah Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart, tweeted about the difficulties of contacting politicians through social media.

Tweeting or writing on Facebook is largely ineffective. I never looked at those comments except to remove the harassing ones,” Ellsworth said in a Nov. 11 tweet.

Senior Caroline Collins of Tinton Falls experienced politicians on social media firsthand.

“I primarily interned for Senator Jennifer Beck… The whole goal of their social media outreach is just to show the community that they’re involved,” Collins said.

But not every politician is involved in the world of social media. Senior Sydney Coneeny of Wall interned for Assemblyman David Rible and noted his minimal social media presence.

“The assemblyman did not actually have social media aside from his personal accounts, which I think might be to his detriment because sometimes social media works really well, especially at the local and state levels,” Coneeny said.

Seventy-nine percent of CHS students think that politicians should have a social media presence, according to a survey of 227 students from March 22, 2017 to March 23, 2017.

Younger millennials use an average of four social networks, according to a 2015 survey from the American Press Institute. With millennials comprising around 31 percent of the voting-eligible population, according to Pew Research Center, social media promotion could reach large swaths of voters.

Junior Matt Avena of Middletown successfully contacted Constitution Party presidential nominee Darrell Castle’s team through Twitter.

“I started a Twitter account [for the CHS mock election] and I followed around 2,000 accounts of people who supported Darrell Castle and around 500 of them followed me back. That made his actual social media people look at our account,” Avena said. “They put us in touch with their director for the campaign… it was very interesting talking to a professional in the field. They did offer a few insights and they said some really positive things about us and our futures in politics.”

But not all politicians are as engaged with their constituents on social media, Avena said.

“I know Congressman Chris Smith doesn’t respond to anything on social media… so it can be a good way to catch the attention of a politician if a lot of people are saying the same thing, but I don’t know if an individual’s best approach to contacting a politician should be on social media,” Avena said.

Collins agreed that larger movements draw more attention.

“If you get some kind of hashtag going or something trending where a lot of people are talking about it, that’s what politicians will respond to,” Collins said. “It can be effective if done the right way.”

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The News of Communications High School
Citizens and politicians interacting via social media can be beneficial or futile