In 2011, Twitter and other social media sites became the vehicle for spreading civil action. Worldwide. People voiced their opinions about what was going on in their communities, and sparked action against things they wanted changed.
For better or for worse, the 2011 revolutions, riots, protests, and shout-outs on social media sites have changed the way the world communicates. The ability for people to interact with each other and their community leaders was boosted by websites like Twitter. Their opinions have spread like wildfire on sites like Facebook. They can post nearly live videos of action to YouTube. This past year, people have seen what social media can do, and know that they are capable of creating change as well.
On a worldwide level, last year saw the revolution in Egypt and around the Middle East, fueled by Facebook and Twitter. The London riots spread throughout England mainly through people’s use of Blackberry “BBM”-ing. News of the BART protests spread through Twitter during the summer of 2011. Piggybacking off that came the Occupy movement – spreading across the United States through blogs and Twitter, and bringing together people of all backgrounds for a similar cause.
On a smaller level, regular people interested in local politics observed their leaders in action on Twitter. Politician’s Twitter profiles are a combination of political tweets, personal quips, and a sprinkling of campaign updates. On Twitter, they can now interact with local constituents easily, and vice versa.
So was the case when Representative Steve King (R-IA) tweeted during the Stop the Online Piracy Act hearing on Dec. 15.
A local follower of Representative King’s, @ajunod, took offense to his boredom while on the job.
Not only does Twitter allow a citizen to monitor their elected leaders, but it offers a chance to directly reply to them. Social media provides opportunity to communicate freely and instantly, but also to hold public figures responsible.
Using another free online opportunity, @ajunod created a petition using signon.org, asking for signatures in support of Rep. King paying back his constituents’ the tax money paid to him to do his job, and that she felt he wasted by not giving the SOPA hearing his full attention. Through Twitter, she spread awareness of the petition by tweeting relevant followers and Iowans.
In the course of an afternoon, one citizen sparked awareness for their public leader’s actions. Much like the civil events from earlier in 2011, one person’s comment can instantly bring on negative attention for a public figure. In the upcoming Republican primaries, and later this year with the Presidential elections, politicians need to be aware of how citizens view them. Public comments online can make or break a candidate and their campaign. It’s not just the media and professional journalists exchanging and delivering information anymore.