Saturday, January 14, 2017

Can lawmakers in NJ and NY rival Pa.'s hip 'selfie caucus'?

Here's how Cassie Owens introduced readers of BillyPenn to the 'selfie caucus':

No, it’s a not a real caucus that convenes and zeroes in on goals or whatnot. It’s more of a label that’s been given to younger, social-media-savvy lawmakers in Harrisburg. Rep. Jordan Harris of Philadelphia is pretty sure they earned the moniker for taking selfies in the caucus room.

The name has some shade to it. In
“small-c conservative” Harrisburg, heavy social media use and unabashed self-portraiture don’t conform with every elected’s idea of what a lawmaker is supposed to do. And yet, the Selfie Caucus forms the vanguard of state legislators implementing digital communications.

“They proved themselves fairly skilled,” said John Micek, opinion editor at the Patriot-News and a fellow fluent social media denizen who also referred to the cadre as “brand masters.” “They became kind of omnipresent, like those people who are on Instagram all the time.”

Caucus members tend to be Democratic state representatives, under the age of 45, from cities. “The Senate is a little staid for those kind of hijinks,” Micek said.
Pa. Rep. Ryan Bizzarro wants you to follow him on Snapchat. The Erie lawmaker posted this on Twitter and Facebook. He’s pretty active on Twitter, but not as much as he is Facebook, where he posts prolifically. Travel alerts, updates on legislation, musings on historic days, news he finds relevant to his constituents— for much of this, Bizzarro not only crafts posts but attaches custom graphics, often bearing his social handles.

Rep. Mike Schlossberg of Allentown, who is totally
in the pack, wrote a book on social media and politics called Tweets and Consequences. He pointed out that social media use is (slightly) higher in cities than in the country, but noted, “I think we used it in overall life and then figured out how to integrate it when we got to Harrisburg.”

Schlossberg isn’t much for selfies, but doesn’t mind being grouped with like-minded folks under that coinage. He’s a believer in the platforms.

“There’s such distrust in government. [Voters] see the perfectly coiffed hair, American flag lapel pins and they get angry at that,” he said. “Politicians are supposed to be slick and shiny. But we don’t want to be slick and shiny. We want to be ourselves.”

So how's the social media scene among legislators in New Jersey, New York and Delaware? We'd love to hear from you if you are an elected official who's putting Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram or some other digital platform to use. Or even if you're just having fun with it. Tell us what's working, what's not, and what reception you've received from constituents or colleagues. To respond, click on the tiny 'comment' link below or send your story to

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