At the outset, social media was a young persons game.
Facebook was created as a way for university students to interact.
Twitter became mainstream only after it dominated the hipster-mecca South by Southwest music, film and interactive conference in 2007.
And Google+ launched last year with techie young men firmly in its pocket before the demographics began to expand.
Today, social media is as synonymous to the Internet as pornography.
But unlike indulging in sexually graphic material, having an online presence is more socially acceptable and something politicians can (usually) participate in without inciting a career-ending scandal.
Local representatives for all levels of government can be found on social media sites, actively and publicly interacting with constituents as they look for input on issues, express their opinion on recently approved legislation or merely give a snapshot of what theyre doing with their day.
Tapping into social media has become as integral a part of the political process as campaigning and voting.
It gives people an opportunity to know what your elected officials are thinking and for them to just contact them directly and let us know what theyre thinking, said Prince George Coun. Brian Skakun, who can be found on Facebook as well as on Twitter (@BrianSkakunCity).
Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond (@ShirleyBond) is one of the citys most prolific Twitter users, tweeting at least once - sometimes three or four times - per day since 2009.
I think its about trying to reach as many people as possible, said Bond, who, as of Wednesday, has racked up 2,145 followers.
Unlike some politicians and celebrities, Bond does all of her own tweeting, and can often be found at events taking pictures or giving accounts of happenings on her Blackberry Twitter application.
The busy MLA and Minister of Justice said it adds an extra component to her workload, but that its important for her to be transparent.
As a politician theres an expectation that you need to be accessible, agreed Prince George Coun. Garth Frizzell, who follows closely on Bonds Twitter heels (@GarthFrizzell) with 1,699 followers but has sent nearly 450 more tweets.
How can you possible be available to 70,000 people?
You cant, he said, but explained social media outlets allow them to get into the conversation more.
According to Frizzell, Facebook is the medium which has been embraced the most in the city, but said the difference between the various media is like the differences between writing a letter, making a phone call or having a face-to-face conversation.
Skakun is newer to the Twitter game, having only really got the hang of it within the last few months, and said Facebook allows him to get more in depth with an issue than the 140 characters allowed on the micro-blogging Twitter site.
Coun. Cameron Stolz maintains a regular dialogue with city residents on Facebook, opting to use the medium instead of his Twitter account (@StolzPG), which has a grand total of two tweets since March.
Stolz attended a gathering of Twitter users at the last Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Saskatoon last month, but learned he isnt quite ready for the big time yet.
Its really easy to embarrass yourself, so at this point, I have to say I need a little bit more education on how to
properly tweet things, Stolz said.
Fellow councillor Albert Koehler is also new to Twitter (@AlbertKoehlerPG).
He has a Facebook account he used more during the 2011 election, but started sending tweets last October.
He said there would have been some benefit to adding Twitter to his name-recognition arsenal during the municipal campaign.
Now its not about name recognition anymore once you are elected. Its about informing, added Koehler, explaining he doesnt devote a lot of time to the practice, but scans his Twitter feed daily for interesting tidbits.
You have to go with the technology today, the technology that is available, said the engineer.
Social media, including Twitter, is just another tool and denying it and not using it if we can, doesnt make sense.
Prince George-Peace River MP Bob Zimmer (@BobZimmerMP) did pick up Twitter during his nomination campaign in August 2010 and said it adds to the traditional elements of connecting with voters and constituents.
We still do the traditional door knocking, we still do thing like trade shows and at malls where you actually physically talk to people and shake their hand and they get to know who you are as an individual, said Zimmer, who keeps Facebook more for his private life.
Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell also joined Twitter (@PatBellBC) after years on Facebook where he has more than 1,300 listed friends. Its one more piece of the equation that helps to communicate with people, he said.
He said he began using it during trade missions to China as a way to post pictures and bursts of information to demonstrate the trips arent a waste of time.
Heres what were doing, wheres what going on. It gives people a greater degree of confidence, said the Prince George-Mackenzie MLA.
It also gives politicians a new outlet for their side of the story.
Skakun said he can use his accounts to post information no matter the time of day, instead of waiting for the mainstream media to report on a story or perhaps do an interview with you to find out what youre thinking.
If I have an opinion on a certain topic that was relevant to the community, I could state my opinion and get it out there and people would actually see it, Zimmer added.
Having that direct line to a political representative breeds familiarity, which has both its positive and negative consequences.
Zimmer said he has had to fight the urge to sign off from Twitter permanently after less than cordial messages.
Im resisting that because I think its a valuable tool for constituents to follow what Im doing and its valuable for me too, to reach them. But sometimes its tempting, with some of the stuff that comes across, he said.
Skakun said he doesnt pull many punches himself and can be brutally honest with the opinions he expresses online, but said the important thing is that hes getting feedback to his views.
Thats what its all about. It doesnt matter if people like my ideas or not its about getting their feedback - their uninhibited feedback - and I think thats great because obviously not everyone agrees with what elected officials do, he said.