John Edwards’s 2.0bituary and the Big Social Media Lie

This seems like an odd day to write about John Edwards, whom some of you may remember was running for president at some remote time in the past, like February.

But a blog entry by Stowe Boyd includes a fascinating–if obvious-when-you-think-about it–observation about politicians’ use of social media that’s worth carrying forward into the general election.

The 2.ghost town–an abandoned blog, Twitter account, etc.–that Edwards left standing when he suspended his campaign make a vivid illustration of how social media is seized upon by politicians to create “two-way communications” with the public–and then dropped the instant its utility as a vote-generator is exhausted.

Writes Stowe:

So, you opt to try to exploit the edglings by signing up to Twitter, and writing a blog, and all that newfangled web stuff, trying to mine the potential there with ersatz involvement and cheesy, inauthentic participation: cramming old one:many messaging into a conversationally rich environment.

Then, you drop out. And proof that it is totally bogus, you just stop. Bam. No ‘thanks for the memories’, no ‘see you in the funny papers’, and certainly no ongoing involvement, since after all, there really was no involvement involved.

Proof of old politics wolf in new politics sheep’s clothing: they assume the ways of the new social web revolution as a means to come into contact with us, but when they lose (and maybe when they win, as well?) they drop the pretense of involvement, and go back to whatever they really believe in. Which is clearly not this new emerging whatever-the-hell-it-is on the web.

Okay, he’s being tough and a bit theatrical [as one commenter points out, Edwards' wife has cancer, for god's sake]. But the startling question Stowe raises in passing is this:

Will the winner of the race continue to use social media after installed in the White House?

Or will that “two way communication” that social media provides be shelved, along with negative ads and yard signs, until it’s time to fire up the campaign engine?

As it happens, I follow “Barack Obama” [or whoever types the vapid Tweets that represent the great orator's voice in Twitterdom]. The day after Pennsylvania, “Obama” is eerily silent.

I just “nudged” him. Wonder if he’ll post!

Punchline: around 2 p.m., “Barack Obama” posted this Tweet: BarackObama In New Albany, IN at a town hall meeting at Indiana University Southeast.

[Thanks to Josh Levy at TechPresident for the pointer to Boyd's post.]

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2 Comments on “John Edwards’s 2.0bituary and the Big Social Media Lie”


  1. [...] The same reasons it helps a company have a community evangelist. Two main reasons. 1. It humanizes the political brand – it helps having a turn-to person when you’d like to offer feedback 2. Crisis Management. Like in Edwards case, given all the brouhaha over his absence these days, it’d be nice to have someone from their campaign (it could be an intern) who actually responds authentically to social media mentions (like to Stowe Boyd or Craig Stoltz). [...]


  2. [...] Stoltz highlights a a blog entry by Stowe Boyd on "John Edwards’s 2.0bituary and the Big Social Media [...]


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