I have a habit on Facebook that could very easily get me into a heated debate, but 90% of the time, goes very well. Maybe it’s a reflection of my district, but the vast majority of times, when I hear from my constituents, I agree with the positions they are asking me to take: more funding for education, in favor of gay marriage, in opposition to drilling for Marcellus Shale on state park lands, etc.
However, this isn’t always the case. I always make it a practice to write back to my constituents, even if I disagree with them. If someone is going to take the time to connect with their elected officials, than I am absolutely going to give them the courtesy of reaching back out, even if what I have to say isn’t what they want to hear.
Sometimes, depending on the issue, I take it one step further: I post the response letter (minus the constituent’s contact info) to Facebook, and link to Twitter as well. Here’s why:
1) Breakthrough the clutter: Anyone who follows any elected official on social media sees plenty of self-serving, self-aggrandizing posts. That’s the nature of the beast, and to some extent, the nature of politics in general; elected officials try to appease their constituents. To a certain degree, these letters involve elected officials stating my position. But it’s doing so in a different way – stating agreement with one position by showing disagreement with another. In that sense, it is very different than the usual and helps to capture attention.
2) Show you aren’t afraid: Not only is this post good at cutting through the clutter, but it’s good at showing that you aren’t afraid of being honest and blunt with your constituents, even when you disagree with them. One of the things that struck me every time I have made a post like this is that people have said, “Wow, I don’t agree with you at all, but good for you for being honest.” I think people are absolutely convinced that no one in government is honest with them and that everyone is telling them only what they want to hear. A former elected official once told me that people will forgive disagreement, but they won’t forgive being lied to. Think about how many politicians are popular because they express disagreement.
Of course, engaging in a strategy like this requires that you actually aren’t afraid of showing your disagreement. That one is up to you.
3) Gain likes and engagement: For the reasons stated above, posts like this are more likely to gain likes, comments and shares. This creates engagement, which helps the post be seen by more people, which helps increase your reach.
My experience with these posts? I’ve done three: one on gay marriage, one on making English the official language of America and one on Planned Parenthood. Two of them (the gay marriage and Planned Parenthood post) have been my most popular posts ever, particularly the gay marriage post, which was shared over 200 times. One note here: if you are going to post a letter of disagreement, prepare to be disagreed with! People will respond in the comments section with their own disagreement and displeasure, and you need to be prepared to respond or ignore. Whether or not I would engage in a civil discussion with someone disagreeing depended on their tone: calm, sure, let’s talk; crazy and insulting, you’re getting ignored.
Any thoughts to add? Think this is a good or bad idea? Let me know in the comments!