Boston Globe: In 140 characters, state senator takes on the Twitter trolls

To most politicians, Twitter looks more like a minefield than a social media platform. Yes, it can be used to engage constituents, but the risks of giving the public an unfiltered peek inside a pol’s mind seem too great. Just ask Anthony Weiner or Scott Brown, he of the infamous “Bqhatevwr.”

Jamie Eldridge, however, is not afraid.

Unlike most other state senators, whose staffers tweet inane updates on their whereabouts, the liberal Democrat from Acton wades into the fray himself. Eldridge taps out dozens of impassioned tweets each day, finding time between meetings to mercilessly mock his critics and offer blunt opinions on issues of the moment.

“A lot of politicians just think of Twitter as another way to get their point of view out,” Eldridge said. “But then you’re not getting the value of interaction, and it comes across as inauthentic.”

His online rhetorical toolbox includes sincerity (Is water a right or a privilege? “My god, of course it’s a right!”), sarcasm (“If only there was a simple way to pay for and plan society’s [healthcare] needs #singlepayer”), and snark (Boston 2024 supporters “probably figure their $ can get Yes vote”).
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He’s not afraid to go on the offensive against big opponents (“Shame on you @Nestle”), demand evidence in policy debates (“send me the proof please”), or dispatch uninformed trolls with a single word (“tiresome”).

Eldridge’s blunt style has raised eyebrows. “My colleagues are surprised that I engage with people who they think are just out to attack me,” he said.

But Eldridge finds the short, digital conversations are more genuine than most political debates. It lets him connect with a diverse audience outside his largely white constituency.

Opponents sometimes soften their tone after they realize he is personally responding. Others have told Eldridge they support him despite disagreeing with him, simply because they respect his candor. Eldridge even looks to Twitter for advice.

“I’ve gotten ideas on bills to file and critiques that influenced my positions on issues on Twitter,” he said.

If that scares you, feel free to tweet him about it. Just keep it to 140 characters or less.

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