By Laura Krantz, Metro West Daily News
It’s a typical day in the life of state Sen. Jamie Eldridge:
@IAMMGraham: @JamieEldridgeMA …Do you support mandatory road tests for drivers 75 and older?
@JamieEldridgeMA: @IAMMGraham yes.
@IAMMGraham: @JamieEldridgeMA Terrific! Let’s work together to get this done for Massachusetts before another event like #Worcester today
@PhotoLumination: @JamieEldridgeMA @IAMMGraham How about we stop all forms of distracted driving by all ages? LEt’s start with the big problem.
If you don’t know what that all meant, you’re not on Twitter. The social media site allows users to send brief (140-characters max) messages out to the world.
These days, the majority of MetroWest and Milford area politicians are embracing Twitter as a way not only to show voters what they’re up to minute-by-minute, but to debate controversial topics in a forum where anyone can join in.
That interaction, between Eldridge, a Boston Herald columnist and a voter, is part of what takes place every day online.
All but four local legislators have Twitter accounts, some managed by the politicians themselves and others by aides.
Their Twitter feeds are dotted with photos of constituents visiting the State House, legislators at events, links to news articles or snippets of what’s being debated in chambers at the moment. Many legislators mark accomplishments – such as passing a bill – with a tweet.
Eldridge, D-Acton, is perhaps the king of Beacon Hill tweeters. He loves a good back-and-forth with constituents, advocacy groups or anyone else who wants to debate.
“I’ve really gotten into it,” Eldridge said. But he wasn’t always a tweeter.
A campaign aide in 2007 gave him the bug, he said, and now he tweets multiple times a day, even multiple times an hour.
And with 3,315 (and counting) followers, people are listening. As of Friday last week, Eldridge had tweeted 12,320 times.
“Just by having an interaction it’s a way to sort of educate anyone who’s following me about an issue,” he said.
A few years ago, Acton hired an energy manager who saved the schools hundreds of thousands of dollars in utility costs, Eldridge said. The senator tweeted about her ideas, filed a bill, scored interest from environmental groups and today it has become a state program.
“It has an exponential positive effect,” he said.
In the Massachusetts Twittersphere, Eldridge is well-known for his Twitter back-and-forths.
“If you’re looking to really have a robust social media presence, I think two things are important – authenticity and interactivity,” said Alex Goldstein, a political consultant and adjunct professor at Emerson College teaching political communications.
Goldstein said Twitter can be a two-way street with constituents in real time.
But Eldridge’s Twitter feed is not just lively debate. He links to national and local news stories, re-tweets others’ messages and tweets @ people to get their attention.
“You want to sort of make that personal connection with people,” Eldridge said.
Other local legislators shun Twitter.
“I think it’s leading to the complete breakdown of society,” said Rep. George Peterson, R-Grafton.
What happened to the days when people wrote letters then let them sit for 24 hours before sending, he wants to know.
“A dinosaur? I am one, I’ll admit it,” Peterson said. “Phone calls and face-to-face I find much better to get your points across and understand where people are coming from.”
Rep. Alice Peisch, D-Wellesley, also does not have a Twitter account. Neither do Reps. Kate Hogan, D-Stow, and John Fernandes, D-Milford. Peisch’s office said her Facebook page is an adequate social media tool.
Other legislators said Twitter offers an approachable way to talk with voters and a wider audience.
“Announcements and comments on Twitter allow me to present information more informally,” said Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland.
Spilka’s staff manages her account. She regularly suggests the topic for tweets, which go out at least once a day, she said.
Some legislators said Twitter’s 140-character cap is annoying. And don’t get them started on nasty Twitter trolls.
“Anonymous and sometimes obnoxious comments on Twitter” drive Rep. David Linsky crazy, and the Natick Democrat doesn’t do the back-and-forth that Eldridge and others love.
“If you want to have a conversation with me, pick up the phone and call me or email me directly,” Linsky said.
His Twitter feed is a mix of Natick High School athletics and updates from the State House. For all social media, he follows his mother’s advice: never send a tweet you don’t want the whole world to see.
Some legislators admit they only joined Twitter when they ran for office, but Rep. Jeff Roy, a Franklin Democrat, said he was tweeting way before then.
For the same reason he meets senior citizens at the senior center, Roy said he engages with younger constituents online.
“I like to see who would retweet something that I posted,” he said.
@JeffRoy tweeted this week: “I just committed to ride the Pan-Mass Challenge for 2014. Click here to join me!”
But the RTs and favorite stars can be all-consuming, Roy said. He tries not to get bogged down in it, or tweet too much.