Emerging Tech

The time of the 'social media' candidate is nigh

Charles Dharapak/AP

What happens on social media when people stop being polite and start getting real? Maybe we realize that's what we should have been doing all along. Tuesday's New York Times profile on Joe Lhota, MTA chief, seems to bolster some theories that have been percolating in our time of ever-encroaching, ever the more personal and connected social media. Particularly as to how that social media can intersect with the lives of politicians and public figures and even bolster them. We've seen this with writers, with artists, with celebrities: We're kind of done, it seems, with the sponsored, censored, scripted stuff, and instead prefer real, honest, authentic truths and slices of life. We want genuine banter, even if it's just banter. We want the real deal. Don't couch things, don't tell us your Retweets aren't endorsements, just be you—for better or worse, even if you're some kind of bigwig. Maybe, especially if you are.

Take, for instance, Barack Obama's recent foray onto Reddit, where he did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) and answered, if not everything, numerous questions without editing or apparent review, words coming straight from the president's fingers to the eyes of millions. There were typos, even! This is the president unscripted, the one we want to see, and even if not everyone was totally happy with what came out of it, it was an unprecedented breaking-the-barriers kind of reach-out to a social media savvy public. Compare that to JFK's "I personally am the antithesis of a politician" candidness revealed to Ben Bradlee and James M. Cannon after Kennedy announced he was running for president in 1960. He was honest, too—off the cuff, not trying to fit the stereotype of "a politician," not trying to sell anything. "I think I just happen to fit now," he said.

Similarly, the social media endeavors of the Obamas (there's that AMA, and both Michelle and Barack do personally tweet, though their accounts are largely run by staff) fit where we are now in a particular way. These are "humanizing" techniques, even if they are digital—social media presents so many ways to interact seemingly individually with constituents, many of whom know the posers from the real deal almost implicitly. It's why people like Newark, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker—who tweets nearly ceaselessly, interspersing personal anecdotes about his love for coffee with inspirational quotes and a number where he can be reached if citizens need help—attract millions of followers who are also fans.

Read more at The Atlantic Wire.

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