Obama Twitter account hits 1 million followers in just hours
US president Barack Obama has gone to great lengths to break out of the cloistered Washington scene, which he clearly hates. Photograph: Getty Images
The profile is matter-of-fact: “Dad, husband and 44th President of the United States. ” But the first message brimmed with enthusiasm: “Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really!” With that, president Barack Obama inaugurated his own Twitter account on Monday, after years of complaining of being trapped in a Washington bubble, unable to connect with real people, blocked from hearing their concerns, fears and hopes. He could get all that, and more, with the new @POTUS account.
White House aides promised the president would “engage directly with the American people” on the often chaotic social media site, which has become a global town square for the internet age. Mr Obama has also written posts in the past under the handle @BarackObama, which is used by Organizing for Action, his nonprofit advocacy group, and the handle @WhiteHouse, which is used by his communications team.
But the new handle is his own and, within hours, more than one million had signed up to follow his musings. The president's first message acknowledged the obvious: it was about time. “Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account,” he wrote.
Freed of shackles
The appeal for Obama seems obvious: he has gone to great lengths to break out of the cloistered Washington scene, which he clearly hates. He has scheduled lunches with people who wrote him letters. And he has occasionally walked unannounced into a deli or a coffee shop.
“I'm sort of like the circus bear that kind of breaks the chain, and I start taking off, and everybody starts whispering, 'The bear's loose,'” Obama said last year. But early indications suggest the Twitter conversation may be more one-sided than he realises. As of late afternoon on Monday, Obama was following only 65 other accounts, which mostly included the institutions of government: @HUDGov, @USTradeRep, @USTreasury and, of course, his wife Michelle's account, @FLOTUS. He was also following several Chicago sports teams, his college alma maters and two politicians: Bill Clinton and the elder George Bush.
But so far, no real people. – (New York Times service)
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