MySpace Reveals Maine Politicians' Quirks
President Obama's (I still love saying that) victory in first the primaries and then the general election came on the shoulders of a dedicated base of supporters that organized themselves through powerful social networking utilities. Politicians at every level have recognized the strength of these online communities and are seeking to harness them for their own political ends.
Two Maine state representatives have proved that there's a right way and a wrong way to reach out online.
Matt Peterson, a 30-year-old Democrat from Rumford, has a great MySpace page. Perhaps he chose the service because of the flexibility it offered in designing his profile - his page features a well-coordinated background, readable fonts, and tasteful photos of Peterson looking serious and speaking with constituents. Other social networks, like Linkedin, which is geared toward professionals and facebook, which was originally targeted solely at college students, would have provided fewer design options.
The page is functional and informative as well as stylish. Peterson's embedded blog contains interesting tidbits such as a survey on his legislative decision-making process and a press release announcing his appointment to the Health and Human Services Committee. The highlights of his profile page are a note thanking his constituents for supporting him in the last election and comments from some of his 455 MySpace "friends" congratulating him on his win. The page is sparse on personal details, but does note that Peterson is single and an Aries.
Tyler Clark, a 23-year-old Republican from Easton, has a very different kind of MySpace page. Every scrap of image and text is semi-transparent so that the Ford Mustang grill background image can shine through. The photo of Representative Clark on the page (which appears to show him violating state law by riding in a car without wearing a seat belt) is outshone by a big image of (you guessed it) a '97 Ford Mustang.
The site also has a great deal of personal information, everything from Clark's heritage ("White"), to his opinion of his own attractiveness ("I think I’m above the national average"), to his goal for the year ("To be elected to the State Legislator [sic]").
Other important information listed by Clark includes his salary as a manager at Wal-Mart, his membership in the college Republicans, his hatred of tea, and the fact that he showers daily. Not a scrap of info about his political philosophy or policy views.
Lest you think I'm unfairly making fun of someone for leaving up an old, defunct profile, the page was last updated on January 14, 2009, well after Clark's term began. A Google search for Tyler Clark in Easton, Maine returns MySpace as the second hit behind his official legislative page and well above his campaign website. Also, the 2008 election was Clark's second attempt to gain public office. He ran, unsuccessfully, for the same seat in 2006.
I don't doubt Clark's political abilities; he just won a formerly Democratic seat in a tough year for Republicans, but his online persona needs some tweaking.