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Social media scares politicians

If social media is putting people off standing for election to the House of Keys, as the Treasury Minister says, they’ve probably misunderstood the medium.

Social Media

The terrifying public on social media

An interesting story from Manx Radio here:

Social Media Criticism Putting Off Election Candidates

Social media criticism is preventing potential candidates from contesting September’s general election, says a senior government minister

Ayre MHK Eddie Teare believes personal comments on various platforms are deterring a number of people from standing.

The Treasury Minister, who isn’t standing for re-election, says when he first entered politics, criticism was more levelled at policies.

With social media making it easy to comment whilst hiding behind a pseudonym, Mr Teare says views now tend to be more personal with many not having enough courage in their convictions to use a real name.

Essentially, Treaury Minister Eddie Teare says anonymous personal comments on social media is discouraging people from standing for a seat in the national parliament.

Let’s step back for a moment and look at whether that makes sense.

Social media on the Isle of Man

Anonymous social media means Twitter. Facebook uses real names and people are deliberately identifiable because the whole point of Mark Zuckerberg’s site is for people to connect their friends.

Facebook accounts for 77 per cent (or thereabouts) of social media users. Twitter, by comparison, represents around 2.5 per cent.

The government’s last available census data (from 2011) gives roughly 54,000 Facebook users on the Isle of Man, while just 2,100 or so use Twitter. I’d say from personal experience that’s fairly accurate. Individuals tend to use Facebook while organisations tend to use Twitter.

Even if you counted the forum site ManxForums as social media, it only has a relative handful of users.

It’s hardly an avalanche of anonymous trolls pouring spite and disdain over the internet. I’m not even aware many Manx politicians have Twitter accounts. The ones that do certainly stand out.

So what’s the worry here? That attacks are more personal? One of the people given the Tynwald Honour this year was jailed a century ago for describing the House of Keys as “donkeys”. Another regularly launched personal attacks against politicians.

Or is there another message? That people are frightened of the technology? You might as well say telephones put people off standing because you can buy a Pay-As-You-Go SIM card and shout abuse over the phone. That shouldn’t mean you don’t want or use a phone.

So what is going on?

Perhaps the real problem is that many candidates don’t understand social media. That’s a real shame, as it’s an incredibly effective tool to foster discussion. I’ve come across a few candidates in recent years who would never have stood for public office if it wasn’t for encouragement from online communities.

The truth is this: if you don’t really understand social media, you should. And if you’re a politician, you should have a strategy for it, if only to proactively engage online. Websites are old hat – the Manx Radio story itself will drive website traffic mainly through its Facebook post. So if politicians aren’t on social media, they can’t even read the discussion sparked by their decisions.

If you’d like to find out more about the training Chips Cheese Gravy Media offers prospective MHKs in September’s general election, you can click here. And yes, we cover social media!

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2 Responses so far.

  1. David Cretney says:

    Really interesting piece Jason.

  2. Pat Ayres says:

    There is no need to fear social media, it is a part of life now.
    Criticism will come from many places, it’s not all negative.
    Even Manx Forums has it’s positives, often they have the news before the mainstream media.
    It can be brutal at times but so can life itself.
    You need a thick skin to be in politics but, sticks and stones will break my bones, words will never hurt me.
    I would rather people told me if I was doing something wrong than carry on and make a right mess of things.

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