Newark Mayor Cory Booker said that politicians and government officials should take advantage of social media in order to fully connect with citizens.
Booker, 43, has more than 1.3 million Twitter followers and uses the service regularly for personal communication. During a panel at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin Texas Sunday, Booker said “I will find out before anybody in my government when a light is out, when a pothole is there. I can now show up with a space heater and blankets. I can now take a level of action I couldn’t before.
“This is a period in America where we must bring more authentic engagement to our political sphere. We’re losing the soul of our politics.”
Additionally, Booker said Twitter can be a vehicle for social empowerment, providing constituents an easy avenue for communication with their government. Twitter has steadily contributed to Booker’s popularity, as the mayor enthralls followers with messages ranging from his love for Star Trek to his week-long food stamp diet..
Typical campaign and political organization accounts often regulate their Twitter postings to public statements and press releases. During his re-election campaign the Obama administration established a separate Twitter account for each state, but most were regulated to general campaign news updates rather than true interaction with prospective voters.
“It’s just using it as an announcement system, like you used to listen to in class: ‘The cafeteria will be serving roast beef, and I will be at this place or that place’,” Booker told Reuters in an interview after the SXSW panel. “But that’s not interaction. That’s not collaboration.”
Booker is gradually building a campaign for New Jersey’s 2014 Senate race, and already commands a large number of constituents. Some critics believe that Booker is more focused on his public persona than the 300,000 people he is responsible for in Newark. While speaking with Reuters Booker made it clear that regardless of what office he holds he will continue to freely express himself.
“Life is about telling your truth and being who you are, 100 percent,” he said. “This world desperately needs authenticity, people who have the courage to tell their truth every single day, and I would not stop being who I am just because of the title that’s before my name.”