Politicians on Facebook are often little more than caricatures.
On official pages run by legislative staffers, they come off as wooden and dry Dudley Do-Rights touring the state fairgrounds.
On campaign pages managed by paid political strategists, they are hard-charging partisans, forever storming the barricades.
But on his Facebook page, Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), 58, comes off as a regular person — like he could be your slightly wonky and sarcastic roommate from college.
It’s not an official page, just a regular one like the rest of us use. Instead of fans, he has friends, and he writes his own status updates about buying clothes and watching TV.
Like this one from July 15: “I just bought a couple of new ties and I realized that ties are now the skinniest they’ve been since John Kennedy was President, making all of my ties dated. I blame Mad Men.”
Or this one from July 3: “I’m drinking a beer, eating a steak, and watching [an] old Bond movie on Sleuth. I’m sure if I was paying closer attention I would know why he was wearing a tuxedo.”
Miller says his staffers actually signed up for the social networking site when he was running for re-election in 2008. At first, they posted for him, but after a while, he decided to take over the account.
“I don’t think I ever decided. I just started doing it,” he says. “It’s not like there was a plan here. ... I read the kinds of things other people post and kind of followed suit.”
Technically, Miller’s staff set up the account incorrectly at the start. Politicians and other public figures are supposed to use “fan pages,” a special type of Facebook page that allows other users to become “fans” but does not give the same direct access that a “friend” has. (You’re also limited to 5,000 friends but can have unlimited fans.)
The official Facebook pages for Members of Congress have become a popular way to connect with constituents. More than 400 Members now have a fan page, and they’ve become so popular that the House recently had to issue new rules on franking to regulate how they are used.
Miller’s staff eventually realized its mistake, and he set up a fan page, run by his campaign, that now has more than 1,800 fans. It’s updated infrequently and mostly features information about fundraisers and other campaign events.
But his personal page is more popular — with more than 2,600 friends — and more interesting.
Every morning, Miller, who serves on the Financial Services Committee, spends an hour on his Dell computer reading his favorite blogs on economics (“Calculated Risk,” “Economist’s View,” “Naked Capitalism”), major newspapers and magazines (the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal) and online outlets (Project Syndicate, the Huffington Post).
He then usually posts a link to his Facebook page with a pithy, somewhat snarky comment.
Like this one from Thursday on a New York Times article about freshman Republicans who support federal spending in their own districts: “They’re going to stop the out-of-control spending in other Members’ districts!”