Tweet Ya Later, Mr. Prez!

The same day Mark Zuckerburg and Facebook came forward with their “awesome” product announcement, President Obama hosted a live town hall meeting via Twitter, the first President in history to do so. So progressive! Well, kind of.

Sure, this platform is extremely innovative, precedent-setting and perhaps it’s risky for the President of the United States to subject himself to the American people in this manner. Whether 20 followers or 2,000, people nationwide had the opportunity to voice their opinions and pose their questions to the leader of their country – and he answered!

All the interested parties had to do was tweet @townhall and use the hashtag #AskObama, and Twitter Executive Chairman Jack Dorsey posed them to President Obama.

After citing the correct @mention and hashtag, there was one more crucial step in the process: the tweet’s topic needed to be popular enough for Twitter’s advanced search algorithms to recognize it as highly engaged with tweeters.

At first glance this concept seems fair: weed out the junk questions, make sure those asked are of widespread interest, be efficient with the time allotted, etc. However, on closer analysis, it’s quite clear this model is yet another opportunity for the President to regurgitate his same key messages, only through a different platform – via Twitter, not the literal town hall.  Though he was in fact responding to questions through a live presentation, each tweet/question was hand-selected for the Obama Administration’s agenda.

To be fair, Twitter and the administration were up front and honest with this proposition; they clearly stated that the categories slated for discussion would be economy and healthcare, while “other important issues” would be present as well.

However, one may venture to say most American citizens were not thoroughly aware of this vetting process, and assumed [the 2008 presidential campaign’s favorite character] Joe the Plumber could tweet any question and President Obama would have no choice but to answer… live and on air/streaming.

It is important for the government to progress alongside our tech-obsessed, multi-platform, smartphone-app-using-before-leaving-bed-in-the-morning society and our evolving habits, especially if he wants to re-engage with this generation. Likewise, it is absolutely crucial for the President to learn, understand, and most importantly – utilize – these tools that dominate our means of conversing.

On that same vein, it is equally important for our society to understand that, while the platform may be shifting, the agenda remains the same.

Re-election is looming after all, and we all know that Gen Y is best reached through social applications. Why not get on our level if you want to reach us, and ultimately win our votes? If you’re going to be spitting the same game (i.e. key messages) regardless of the backdrop, then why not talk to us on our own terms?

At the end of the day, Obama is still the first president to visit Indiana University for Little 500 during the campaign (he was not yet elected president), drive a Chevy Volt, live tweet, and host a town hall meeting on Twitter.  However you spin it, and whichever way you see through politics’ frosted glass, it’s still pretty damn cool.

What do you think? Did you follow the conversation with President Obama on Twitter? Tell us in the comments.

Ashleigh Rainko I’m not a drama queen; life's more exciting with exaggeration. I’m not high maintenance; I just know what I want. Mobile apps, innovation, reinvention – and generally all technology – never cease to amaze me. I’m a PR pro, iPhone addict, UMich grad, Jackie O-aspiring metro-Detroit native, who has the gritty, true perspective on our millennial culture. And while you’ll likely find me wearing seersucker, you can feel free to take me seriously.

View all posts by Ashleigh Rainko

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