When I was in first or second grade I wrote a letter to President Bill Clinton. A month or two later I got one back, and it was signed by him.
I was convinced at the time President Clinton personally wrote the response, dropping the responsibilities of the presidency to get back to the pressing matters addressed in my letter.
Two decades or so later, as a cynical and hardhearted 28-year-old, I know it was likely an automatic response sent out by a member of his staff he probably never even communicated with.
Today, instead of writing a letter and never really knowing whether President Obama actually wrote the response, leaving you feeling hopeless and empty inside, you can write him a Facebook message.
President Obama has revolutionized how the leader of the free world communicates with the public. As the first president of the social media age, this was inevitable, but the way he's taken advantage of it is definitely commendable.
The president reads 10 letters every night from American citizens. He definitely receives a lot more, but his job makes it a bit difficult to get around to reading and responding to all of them.
While reading the letters is a wonderful tradition, Facebook Messenger offers the president a more contemporary opportunity to communicate with the public.
Jason Goldman, the White House's chief digital officer, elaborated on all of this in a blog post. He said,
For the greater part of our nation's history, the only way to get a message to the President and the White House was to send it by mail. Technology made new ways of communicating possible. In the 1880s, the White House began receiving phone calls. In 1994, WhiteHouse.gov introduced a way for the public to submit messages online. Today, there are more ways than ever for us to communicate. No matter where you are or what time of day it is, it's possible to connect instantaneously, in real time, to people all over the world. One of our jobs at the White House is to keep up. That's why today, for the first time ever, you will be able to send a note to President Obama simply by messaging the White House on Facebook, the same way you message your friends. Our goal is to meet people where they are. It's why the President launched his own Twitter account and the First Lady is on Snapchat. It's about creating opportunities for people to engage with their government in new and accessible ways, using the same technologies we already rely on in our daily lives... Face-to-face time is a little harder to come by these days, but technology makes it possible for anyone with an internet connection to send a message to the President and his Administration. The White House's Messenger bot, a first of its kind for any government the world over, will make it as easy as messaging your closest friends.
If you want to send a message to President Obama, you can go to the White House's Facebook page.
Next time you're on your phone and someone asks you what you're doing, you can literally say, "Just writing a quick Facebook message to President Obama — no big deal."