It’s the new version of the tree falling in the woods – if someone tweets, but their account is locked and no one can see it, did it happen?
More than a dozen members of the British Columbia legislature don’t appear to have Twitter accounts. Several others are signed up, but haven’t used the microblogging site in eons.
As of this week, though, only one MLA kept his tweets from public view: Guy Gentner, member for North Delta since 2005.
When asked why, and told there must be an interesting story behind it, Mr. Gentner answered with a chuckle and a “sorry.”
His first tweet, about his radio show called Live from the Leg, was sent in February, 2011. When he signed up for the Twitter account, Mr. Gentner locked his tweets as a precaution. He says he then simply forgot all about it. He tweets infrequently – 38 in total – and didn’t really consider he was closed off to most of the Twitterverse.
“I’m not quite a Neanderthal. I’m sort of moving into the tweeting world,” Mr. Gentner said in an interview. “But I find it’s like juggling – all the different social media things you’re doing every day. I’m looking at hundreds of e-mails sometimes.”
As his radio show demonstrates, Mr. Gentner does have some tech savvy. And, after being contacted by The Globe and Mail, he unlocked his Twitter account, opening his posts up to all users, instead of just those he had authorized.
Peter Chow-White, assistant professor at Simon Fraser University’s school of communication, said politicians who have their accounts locked are missing the point – and the conversation.
“It seems to defeat the purpose, only letting certain people in,” he said. “You’re supposed to talk to as many people as possible as a politician. In this case, it’s … kind of like holding a closed-door meeting.”
Christopher Schneider, assistant professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, said such a policy can come with advantages: It could keep tweets from being taken out of context.
“As we’ve seen, this has been problematic for some politicians in news media,” he said. U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner resigned after tweeting a suggestive photo of himself.
“But you can’t have a public platform that’s restricted,” Mr. Schneider added.