Undoubtedly, most people are aware of the news surrounding the social-media titans of Silicon Valley. There have been more questions than answers concerning what these companies are doing with our data and whether they are enabling a fair and open environment of dialogue among elected officials of all parties and their constituents.
Unfortunately, the information disclosed to Congress and Americans wasn't a surprise to me. Last year I wrote an article challenging the usefulness of these platforms, their role in civic engagement and their impact on our democracy. I eventually reached the realization that by having a Facebook page I was encouraging constituents to use an unsecure platform to reach me, so I decided it was time to delete my page.
Facebook is a platform used by many elected officials to connect with those in their district, so the idea of not using it might be scary to some. However, there are alternative platforms to allow for meaningful conversations with constituents on issues important to them, without that environment being monetized, violating privacy and stifling my voice as an elected official. While the Facebook platform has drawn many users, there is an existing platform with an even wider reach: text messaging.
This week, my team and I have worked on bringing this idea to life. The premise is simple: text me, then my staff and I will text back the information you have requested. The goal is to answer your questions, give you a better idea of what I am working on, and help you in any way I can.
Currently, this system requires constituents to initiate the conversation. However, I have been asking for feedback on what types of information they would like to receive and how often. Imagine getting a text message alert every time a vote is coming up about an issue you care about. Not only would this make for a more transparent government but it would notify constituents exactly what legislation is working its way through Congress, rather than having to hear it from a biased social media platform.
The best thing about this platform is that the possibilities are limitless. Imagine getting a calendar invite for your Capitol tour, or a casework form sent right to your phone. You can take this platform in any direction, and those are just a few of the ideas we are currently working on. With input from users, we will be striving to improve the system often to develop a more effective platform.
I know that in our democracy, it's the dialogue that we all hope to have and I realize that we probably will not always agree -- which is not surprising in a congressional district of roughly 600,000 people. But there is no reason to not share our positions, our views and our reasons why with one another. And since this is a sterile environment where no one else can weigh in with inflammatory comments and name-calling -- against you or me -- we can try to reach an understanding between us.
I have never worried about amassing a certain number of followers. I don't place my worth as a legislator or individual on people liking, retweeting or sharing what I say and do on any given platform. What I do value is whether I am engaged with my constituents in a productive manner and how I can accurately reflect your concerns through my work in Washington.
So much of our current state of affairs in this country can be boiled down to the ways by which we communicate -- or the ways we do not. I have always sought productive engagement with my constituents through the means at my disposal and will continue to do so. That is not to say I will always leverage every means available. After all, not every platform works well for constituent communications -- and not all are secure.
I believe my commitment to my constituents when I was first elected has remained the same and I hope this new platform opens doors for constituents to engage with elected officials through new channels. So, text me. Shoot me a message and let me know what you would like to discuss. You can reach me at 870-292-6747.
Cambridge Analytica: Everything you need to know about Facebook's data mining scandal.
iHate: CNET looks at how intolerance is taking over the internet.