Thursday, May 19, 2022

Twitter Ain't Real

Guest Post: Jon-Dalton George 

Kirk deViere (4,100+ Twitter followers) vs. Val Applewhite (135). Applewhite only tweeted once since March. [Applewhite beat incumbent deViere by 20 points last Tuesday in Senate Dist. 19]

Madison Cawthorn (492.4K) vs. Chuck Edwards (2,300+). Cawthorn posted continuous tweets. Edwards beat him by 2 points. Edwards tweeted every day too at the end, more sporadically before that. [NOTE: Edwards' Twitter following has grown since he won]

Nida Allam (12.1K) vs. Valerie Foushee (4,000). Foushee beat her by over 9 points. [Congressional Dist. 4]

Erica D. Smith (24.9K) vs. Don Davis (1,600). Davis beat Smith by 32 points. [Congressional Dist. 1]

Matt Hughes (3,300+) vs. Renee Price (43). Price didn't post all May. [House Dist. 50. Price beat Hughes by a whopping 44 points]

Wouldn't you have thought that those candidates with a huge digital presence and following would have been the likely winners? But there seems to be a clear disconnect between online political presence and discourse and what actually happens in a primary. Twitter can create echo-chambers that do not translate to votes.

Kirk's loss of his Senate seat also shows voters may care much more about endorsements than about digital presence. Which makes a post-Roy Cooper legacy possibly look like Jim Hunt's -- traveling the state, sticking his nose in, helping out the little guys.

Could a strong digital presence lull candidates into complacency? You bet. Oftentimes their reach exceeds their grasp. Some actually seem to cater to demographic non-voters by playing it hot and mean. But the validation of "likes" and "shares" sometimes comes from a non-existent base.

It might be worth candidates taking a look at their budgets, especially the line for social media. Graphics, web design, video production, email blasts, Facebook and Twitter posts. All those are helpful tools to get over the line, but some may also inadvertently create a smokescreen that can blind a campaign to reality.

Jon-Dalton George is member of the Boone Town Council

WataugaWatch Answers Jon-Dalton George:


Good point. Pulled me up short and made me think.

I'm guilty. If I'm researching a candidate, I want to see all their digital presence, and I tend to automatically discount a candidate who doesn't have any -- I mean, nothing -- no website, no Facebook, no Twitter. In April -- just last month -- I was complaining about Frances Jackson's invisibility on-line in the House Dist. 45 Democratic primary. She beat her nearest male competitor by 11 points.

Twitter creates its own reality. Candidates will continue to indulge, and they should, and candidate-watchers will continue to indulge -- be teased and misled. Candidates need to be on Twitter, if for nothing else than to announce a fish fry. But know it ain't reality. It's a ticklefest of wish fulfillment and dragon-slaying.

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