David Cameron famously joked on national radio that “Too many twits make a tw*t”. His comment has been re-hashed and derided too many times for us to make yet another unwanted aside here, but put his comment into the context of what’s happening across the Middle East and we start to see something more important.
Is it the case that social media gives freedom of expression to the people of the Middle East or that their politicians are so divorced from the new ways their citizens are communicating that they are unable to control them? I can just see heads of state and monarchs around the region jumping to engage a “social media guru” – no really I can. This is because what Egypt taught these repressive leaders is that you can’t switch off the internet completely, people find a way.
So, instead of killing the channels, these leaders are (rather frighteningly) getting to grips with them. They now know that they need to engage with them, not in a friendly conversational way, but in the form of censorship, bullying and intimidation.
In the western democracies our politicians also need to look at the way they are speaking with us and in particular how young people are gathering their news and forming opinion. With so much voter apathy and disenchantment with mainstream politics it’s vital that they use channels correctly and with consistency.
In other words David, the only tw*ts I can see here are the governments who fail to grasp how these communication channels are changing the world around them. In the extreme this allows Twitter to help fuel a revolution , but closer to home it means another generation of our young people who feel that their future is not in their hands and “why vote?” because it makes no difference?