No wonder Anthony Weiner's back on Twitter.
The disgraced former New York congressman, forced from office two years ago when he posted a raunchy photo of himself, is orchestrating a return to public life. So far, his re-entry strategy has included an 8,000-plus-word article in The New York Times' Sunday magazine this month and a brand-new Twitter account, launched last week. As of lunchtime Wednesday, he had posted three brief messages totaling 15 words, all links to policy statements.
A Pew Research Center study on social media may explain why Weiner, said to be eyeing the New York mayor's race, would return to the site of his ruination. The report, part of the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project and titled "Civic Engagement in the Digital Age," illustrates how closely politics and civic engagement have become linked with social media.
Among the findings: "43 percent of social networking site users say that they have decided to learn more about a political or social issue because of something they read about on a social networking site" and "18 percent of social networking site users say that they have decided to take action involving a political or social issue because of something they read on those sites." Aaron Smith, senior re-searcher for the Pew Research Center's In-ternet Project and author of the report, noted online discussions about politics often spur action in real life.
"Social networking sites offer a space for individuals who are passionate about issues to share that passion with others, and their engagement with those issues often bleeds over into other aspects of their lives," he said in a statement.
The study focused on the growth of politically oriented social media activity and found "overall, 39 percent of all American adults took part in some sort of political activity on a social networking site during the 2012 campaign." Not surprisingly, the study found "Americans who take part in political activities on social networking sites also tend to be highly active in many other areas of political or civic life."
Julie Davis Salisbury, of Atlanta, illustrates that finding perfectly. She helped launch a Facebook page created amid the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.
"A group of moms across the city found each other and used social media to launch Atlanta School Board: Step Up or Step Down, a movement designed to advocate for the continuous improvement of public education in Atlanta," she said. "Amid a landscape that included the twin crises of the cheating scandal and board dysfunction that threatened the district's accreditation, we were able to harness voices of influence across the city to speak as one." The page has allowed parents, some of whom have never met in person, to remain connected and involved.
"The first day we launched our Facebook page, we generated over 100 followers. We now have over 1,000," Salisbury said. "That gives us a broadcast tower from which to communicate important information to parent and community audiences who care about this critical issue. From the mom standpoint, we've made lifelong friends with some folks we may have never met otherwise."