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Did you think President Obama was tweeting? Himself?

Posted on: November 20, 2009

So President Obama has never used Twitter?

Last week, President Obama told Chinese students that he had never used Twitter. Shock! Who sent all those tweets under his name?

I tweet

I am a Tweeter. I enjoy tweeting because I work alone and in a small town. Twitter keeps me in touch with the world beyond my daily existence. It is also a handy diary. I often go back to me tweets to look up something that turned out to be more important than I thought at the time.

But I don’t think everyone must tweet

But I don’t think everyone should tweet just because tweeting is there. I’ve find it strange for example if a surgeon was tweeting. I hope surgeons are concentrating. To tweet about a patient who is unconscious could hardly be done with their consent!

Some people should not tweet, particularly when they are working

I don’t want pilots tweeting while they land a plane. And as a university lecturer, I wouldn’t tweet details about the quality of exam scripts – not because they are private – but because announcing the results is the prerogative of the Registrar. Only the official registry can announce a result.

I don’t expect a President to tweet

Here in lies why President Obama shouldn’t tweet. We voted for Obama, true (or rather Americans did). But we didn’t vote for Obama to do whatever he wants whenever he wants.

We voted him to work within a system and when we voted we assumed that he would be working within a system.

Just as I might ask a pilot to fly a plane, I haven’t asked him to fly any plane. This is a package – you and that plane. Obama and a set of institutions. He becomes part of the institution and it is the institution that is tweeting just as it is the “plane” talking to airtraffic control.

Public office changes the rules

Public office cramps our style! When we accept public office, as President, surgeon, pilot or university lecturer, then we accept that our behaviour is no longer private. And we comport ourselves accordingly. We will say no more on Twitter than we would in the pub. And people are more interested in what our institution does then us personally, it is better not to tweet. Let there be an official tweeter!

Let official tweeters work!

Of course, that means people in high office are not part of the river of information that is available to me and you. Let the official tweeters brief them then! Just as they do about what is being said in newspapers and on the streets.

It is no biggie. But not understanding our institutional role is a biggie. We shouldn’t be in the job if we don’t understand the constraints on our personal lives.

Authenticity means me & my job

And sometimes that means I will be silent

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