Our president has a Twitter account. Who cares? Apparently a lot of people. @POTUS set a Guinness world record for attracting a million followers in five hours. That number included the abject faithful, harassing racist trolls and the curious.
What makes social networks (like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) serious business, however, is not just their size. Online networks are important when they are linked to human networks— webs of people that get together in real space not just cyberspace. ISIS, for instance, is dangerous not because it can post videos online. It’s the people that get together after watching terrorist online murder porn and do dangerous things that you have to worry about.
And that is why we should pay attention to what our president is doing online. As a recent piece in the Washington Post points out, the White House is mostly using social media to whip up the faithful with calls to action that prompt them to advocate for Obama’s political agenda. This approach “raises the prospect of fostering further political polarization if the president opts to communicate mostly with parts of the electorate that identify with him ideologically or can be helpful politically.”
Americans ought to be concerned, when instead of speaking to all Americans, White House digital media outreach becomes little more than his personal political action project paid for by all of us.