Do politicians really need to be on social media?

One of the party leaders once said to me ‘I f*cking hate Twitter’ and I found it hard to disagree with them, given the abuse politicians get online.

I have had a Twitter account for 13 years and I deliberately say practically nothing on it. I have also managed to avoid putting a single photo on my Instagram account.

When you see what some politicians have to go through you really do wonder if it’s all worth the hassle.

You could pretty much pick any politician at random and find abuse. Unfortunately, female politicians in particular are targets for abuse and bullying.

This stuff could not be good for your mental health. In an ideal world, Twitter and the other social media platforms should be deleting accounts that send abuse but they have been very slow to act.

I wonder do politicians overestimate the importance of social media? Does it really make a difference to their vote? Does having 10,000 Twitter followers translate to extra real-world votes? John Hume, Seamus Mallon, Ian Paisley etc all managed to do fine before the age of social media. Mind you I suspect Paisley would have loved Twitter…

Are there any examples of politicians who don’t do social media but still get elected?

I acknowledge the main problem with my argument is it could lead to silencing voices in the public space, particularly female voices.

Also, I know some politicians absolutely love Twitter; they are news addicts and love the buzz and gossip as much as the rest of us.

Here is my suggestion to politicians (and anyone really). Go off social media for the Christmas period and see if anyone notices. If you find you are better off mentally, consider only checking Twitter once a week from a desktop computer, and delete it from your phone. You could also just get a constituency worker or friend to manage your account.

I have a golden rule for behaving online. I never say anything negative to anyone ever. In fact, I go out of my way to tweet writers whose work I enjoyed. Spread joy, not hate.

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