We all have our doubts about politicians personally updating their social media sites – I mean, really, do any of us think President Obama is spending his time tweeting things like “Happy Valentine’s Day @MichelleObama – bo” (yes, this is a real tweet, and, coincidentally, voters’ favorite of the year), when he could be enjoying the many other perks the Oval Office has to offer? No, it’s much more likely that a young, twenty-something staffer is updating his numerous social media sites daily. And, I would venture to guess this is true for most other politicians today. The exception to this rule seems to be Mayor Svante Myrick of Ithaca, New York, probably because he is essentially the political equivalent of a twenty-something staffer – meaning that he is twenty-something. Elected at 24, and now 25, Mayor Myrick is Ithaca’s youngest-ever mayor and first African-American mayor – quite an accomplishment for someone who graduated from Cornell only three years ago.
Myrick’s age is most definitely his most newsworthy quality, and it is evident through his social media personality. Take his Twitter tagline, for instance. It reads, “Mayor of the City of Ithaca. Fan of sports, democracy, and access to education. Not necessarily in that order.” His online persona exudes youthfulness through its tongue in cheek references to a life out of office. To me, it seems easy to picture the young mayor sitting at home watching baseball when he is not in coat and tie on the job. Many of his tweets are similarly humorous (my personal favorite, on his birthday: “I understand that some worry 24 is too young to be mayor. To address those concerns I’ve decided today to turn 25”). In addition to content, it is not uncommon to see Myrick respond personally to his followers. In response to one girl’s excitement over Myrick’s recent decision to follow her, he writes to her “Just breathe deep and try to relax. The tweets will come”. However, lest one begin to discredit the young mayor, these tweets are merely refreshing spurts of humor amid endorsements of various candidates, city-wide announcements, and links to the Ithaca news.
In short, Myrick’s Twitter feed exudes a youthfulness and exuberance that can only be conveyed through personal attention to detail. It is the only truly effective method of a politician’s social media outreach that I have seen in a long time, and this is because it is obvious that Mayor Myrick is behind it himself. Rather than a staffer updating his network multiple times daily, trying to make it more socially palatable by including little quips here and there about current events, Myrick’s tweets are the first I’ve seen that actually introduce the politician to his constituency. Ithaca residents gain insight into his interests and his own brand of humor, and, with a little luck, can personally connect with him over the web. All of this from one of America’s youngest mayors – it looks like our older generation might have a little left to learn.