Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) shows how a candidate can tweet like a person

Brianna Wu is running for Congress. She’s using Twitter like a real person. The result is an authenticity and humanity that’s unique in the political sphere.

Yesterday I explained to a Twitter idealist from a decade ago how political Twitter had succeeded, but not in the way any of us expected. Now every politician has a Twitter. They’re all full of quips, pronouncements, and videos and articles that promote the politician’s views. But Brianna Wu is different — she tweets frequently, responds to others, writes thoughtful threads, and asks questions rather than just rattling off positions and firing at the other side. She even tweets about her life as a human being. This ought not be unusual, but with the rigidly controlled messages and fundraising priorities of politicians, it is.

Brianna Wu’s background made her tough and adept at social media

Wu is a game developer and CEO of the game company Giant Space Kat. (That’s why her Twitter handle is the decidedly unpolitical @Spacekatgal.) She’s also one of the original victims of Gamergate — anonymous Internet trolls attacked her for promoting the idea that women deserved more respect in games and in the games industry. Her antagonists made rape and death threats and posted her address online, after which she left her home and filed a police report.

As she told The New York Times Magazine:

It’s terrifying, right? The thing Gamergate taught me is that there’s nothing I can’t handle. What is someone going to do: Call me ugly? Threaten to kill me? I already deal with all of that on a daily basis.

Wu is very liberal, fierce, tech-savvy, and Twitter-hardened. This is the perfect laboratory to create a next-generation politician that can use Twitter, not just as a weapon like Donald Trump, but as a real way to communicate with constituents. As I write this, @spacekatgal has 69,000 followers.

Wu uses Twitter to broadcast.

There’s plenty of the usual politicking on there. There’s no mistaking where Wu stands, and the Twitter feed is the most visible channel in which to see it.

She posts threads.

Twitter’s character limit gets in the way. So, like many others, Wu posts threaded content.

She asks questions rather than just shouting

Unlike the rest of political Twitter, Wu actually asks questions, raises issues, and even quotes conservatives when she agrees with them.


And she responds as well

Wu does something I rarely see from a public figure: responds directly to Twitter posts directed at her by others.

Like a real person, Wu posts about non-political stuff

Go ahead — see if you can find another politician who tweets like this.

And she has a sense of humor

It tends more toward sardonic observations than laugh out loud funny, but you get a sense there’s a real person in there.

Will this Twitter model work? We’ll find out in 2018

Put @realDonaldTrump aside for a moment. What is political Twitter right now? I reviewed feeds from supposed masters of the form like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Newt Gingrich. They promote themselves, rarely reply, and don’t seem much like humans. And it’s clear that staff write most of the tweets.

Wu is running in deep blue Massachusetts, but in a district that has repeatedly elected moderate to conservative Democrat Steven Lynch. While Twitter is bringing Wu a national following, that may not translate to the advantage she needs in a single congressional district. But I hope she wins. It’s not her positions that attract me most. It’s her engagement. She’s listening and responding, and she has a vibrant personality and a knowledge of technology issues that are unusual in a member of Congress. We need more congresspeople like this. And I’d argue that unless the Democrats get some folks like this running in 2018, they’ll blow their chance to win the House and thwart an unpopular president.

I wonder about one other thing. Suppose Wu wins and gets elected. Can a congressperson spend the time and attention necessary to tweet like this, or is that only possible for a candidate who hasn’t been elected yet?

I’d sure love to find out.

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