Social media has given public officials new ways to express themselves. Ask Cory Booker, Mark Takano and, for very different reasons, Anthony Weiner.

Fortunately there has been no political social media meltdown in Hawaii remotely similar to Weiner’s perverse follies. Not yet, anyway.

It might have to do with the growing online sophistication of lawmakers and leaders here. Or maybe it’s their relative discretion.

But some of Hawaii’s politicians are very active and increasingly fluent in social media.

This year, that fluency has come to include the “selfie,” which was chosen as Word of the Year by both the Oxford Dictionaries and by American linguist Geoffrey Nunberg in this NPR piece.

Beyond snapping pictures of themselves in special or not-so-special moments, Hawaii’s politicians haven’t just carved out their own online identities. They are helping to create online communities, usually in the name of growing their voting blocks, trying to boost their innovation quotients, connecting with their constituencies and sometimes just for a little fun.

When it comes to Hawaii politics, here are some of the most distinctive and effective politicians on social media today:

The Digital Native: U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

When it comes to social media, Hawaii’s Democratic digital darling isn’t a poser. Gabbard was an early adopter to Twitter when she was on the Honolulu City Council. Early on, Councilwoman Gabbard’s tweets to a few hundred followers were far more candid than those of Congresswoman Gabbard, who now microblogs to nearly 10,000 followers.

Years ago, then-councilwoman Gabbard and I were communicating directly through Twitter. Given that the tone of her tweets to this day is largely unchanged, it is safe to assume that most of her posts on Twitter and Instagram still come directly from her.

The Instagram post and caption (which you can see once you click on it) above show Gabbard’s comfortable social media persona. She uses the hashtag #flashbackfriday which, along with #throwbackthursday, is a place users showcase old photos of themselves.

She also holds regular #AskTulsi Twitter chats, which she sees as “fun,” as she explained a recent interview with Civil Beat.

This Christmas, she was “chillaxin’ in Kona,” as she noted on Instagram. Her online vocabulary speaks to young voters and potential voters who are fluent in social media.

The Selfie Senator: State Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran

State Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran of Maui may be a quiet member of Hawaii’s Legislature, but he has been quietly amassing a noticeable array of selfies on the Internet.

Here he is listening to the Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting.

And here he waxes nostalgic about his first job at a Dairy Queen.

He photographed himself in front of this painting of JFK.

And he commemorated his visit to a relic from the Soviet bloc with another selfie.

Selfies can seem like a narcissistic call for attention, and sometimes they certainly are. But they can also be a sort of visual Rolodex of memories. In Keith-Agaran’s case, they are moments in the life of a relatively quiet public servant’s life.

The Maui senator also tries to mix in some selflessness. And he memorializes that, as well. Many of the pictures he posts on Twitter show him as a charitable man of great apparent devotion to his family and church. It adds up to a quirky yet charming online persona that is gradually growing in self-assurance — one selfie at a time.

The Moderator: State Sen. Jill Tokuda

State Sen. Jill Tokuda has been at the nexus of social media movement and government. She receives invitations to take part in professional panels, including the recent Social Media Summit at the Neil Blaisdell Center.

I admire how the Legislature’s education chairwoman has used Google Hangouts, a group video chat app, to host discussions with targeted groups, like the island’s public school principals.

Tenacious McD: State Rep. Bob McDermott

State Rep. Bob McDermott was easily among the most vocal opponents of the marriage equality bill during this year’s Legislature’s special session. He even filed a lawsuit arguing that the legislation was problematic from a constitutional perspective. It ultimately failed.

Despite being on the losing side of history, at least so far, McDermott launched an aggressive social media push beyond the state Capitol and TV airwaves. With the help of regular Civil Beat reader and commenter Keith Rollman, McDermott has become a far more visible presence in social media, carefully outlining his positions while simultaneously seeking donations.

The attention focused on the special session allowed the Republican representative to craft his message and find his voice.

The Special Session Stars: State Reps. Kaniela Ing and Chris Lee

On the opposite end, two young politicians were among the most vocal and visible figures during the special legislative session that secured passage of the Marriage Equality Act.

As digital natives, Chris Lee and Kaniela Ing were digitally agile as they reacted to the special session’s sometimes unpredictable drama to communicate with their supporters.

Kaniela was especially quick in handling a controversy around a Facebook comment he made that, he claimed, was taken out of context.

Lee showed his inherent understanding of Internet culture by snapping photos of himself and, with a little bit of design work, making them into sharable, meme-worthy photos on Facebook and Twitter. Both men now boast thousands of Facebook followers. Their bank of followers grew dramatically during and after the special session.

The Statesman: Gov. Neil Abercrombie

Despite having an array of talented people supporting his social media efforts, Neil Abercrombie is no luddite. After all, this is the governor who announced his candidacy via Twitter.

Abercrombie micro-blogged that he was launching his campaign for governor in 2009. It inspired some political reporters who had resisted Twitter to finally realize that they needed to step more deeply into the social media age. Abercrombie was effectively cutting out the middle man — reporters — and reaching out directly to his constituents.

Today, his social media presence serves as a sort of voice of the state. State agencies relay their messages through it.

He digitally promotes everything from service trips at Mokuauia Island to behind-the-scenes photos of him and Newt Gingrich smiling for smartphones backstage at CNN. At Civil Beat, we often ask “Where’s the Gov?” If you follow him online, you’ll know.

The Glennator: State Sen. Glenn Wakai

Most local politicians ask you to “like” a webpage with their real name on it. It isn’t like that with Glenn Wakai, who wants you to “like” the “Glennator.”

Wakai’s cheeky sense of humor often shines through his posts. Wakai boasts about 5,000 “friends” on Facebook, which is a large group of people who feel a connection to the former TV news reporter.

On the personal side, he posted a touching tribute to his late mother, who died during the special session, on his page. He also documents his many travels, including his deep interest in Micronesia as a very active member of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures.

The Big Presence: Mufi Hannemann

Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann might have the greatest online reach of any politician in Hawaii, thanks to more than 500,000 Twitter followers.

A Twitter audit of his @MufiHannemann account shows that at least 67 percent of his followers (or 343,226 accounts) are real, and not spam accounts. It’s a lower ratio than most Twitter accounts, but his actual following is large for a politician at his level in a state with a small population.

There have been numerous signs that the former mayor will be running for political office again in 2014, as Chad Blair recently noted in his column.

Despite the allegations in a lawsuit that Civil Beat columnist Ian Lind recently wrote about that paint a less-than-flattering image of Mufi’s administrative style, he maintains a sort of “gentle giant” persona on social media and in broadcasts where he often highlights his love of music.

There is also his creation, “Foodie Friday,” when he posts photos from the local eateries where he dines.

And he never forgets to remind people of his strong Washington, D.C. connections, including posting pictures of himself with presidents past and present.

He hasn’t yet announced which race he plans on jump into yet, but it is clear that the former mayor still wants you to believe that he’s like you, and you’re like him.

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