Recently, the majority leader of the House, Steny Hoyer, released this announcement about a Congressional competition. The point of the competition is for Members of Congress to gain as many followers on social media as possible in the span of three weeks.
The intent is to facilitate communication and increase transparency to constituents. However, I’m far from convinced that these actions will accomplish such a goal. Frankly, I think it’s going to have the opposite effect.
If you are asking Members hoping to gain media followers, how do you know who those followers are? Are they bots? Are they constituents that live in the Member’s district?
Social Media is still a unidirectional form of communication, and encouraging citizens to show up in spaces where their voices are rarely heard is discouraging. I love quoting Stephen Coleman in much of my work and here I will do it again:
A political system the encourages public input into the policy process but ignores such input when it comes to producing outputs lacks democratic legitimacyColeman (2017). Can the Internet Strengthen Democracy?
See the donkey race action here (why yes, the website is designed like a donkey race): https://www.majorityleader.gov/allstars
I’ve been told the original goal was to encourage the Democrats to use Social Media. But if social media does not fix the underlying problems facing the crisis of citizen input into democracy, then couldn’t the energy put into developing this competition and the website be better used elsewhere?
Also, on a related but less important note, this competition is rigged. Only people new to social media or with a low number of initial followers have something to gain. How can a Member win if they are already very popular? 😉