JOSEPH CANNING | firstname.lastname@example.org
United States President Donald Trump has been a prolific tweeter since he began running in the 2016 presidential race, when he tweeted up to an astonishing 59 times a day. Since Trump’s victory in the election, his tweets have slowed significantly, but continue unceasingly.
Twitter as a tool
Such a commitment to the use of social media is unprecedented in America and is a political revolution in its own right, but the precedent Trump has set for the platform’s use in politics is destabilizing and destructive. Donald Trump has brilliantly capitalized on Twitter’s ability to distribute information to millions of people around the world instantly.
Though 59 tweets in one day may seem like the product of obsession, it was much more likely the product of a calculated effort to flood social media with the rhetoric of the Trump campaign. This push was a resounding success: escaping politics and calls to “make America great again” seemed an impossible task on social media during September and October of last year.
Not just Twitter
Indeed, the most remarkable facet of Trump’s social media strategy is that his personal tweets could not be contained by Twitter alone. Reddit, the popular information sharing website, has a pro-Trump page r/the_donald that has so effectively adopted Trump’s Twitter strategy that the site’s CEO, Steve Huffman, had to hide the subreddit’s posts on the main page to allow other subreddits posts to appear. Trump supporters took to Facebook as well, sharing news and analytics in support of their cause that became so virulent that false information often spread unnoticed.
It is evident that Trump’s aptitude for social media and the coordinated efforts of his cohorts contributed significantly to his election as president last year. Surely, similar methods will be employed by more politicians in the future, and the internet will play an ever increasing role in politics. Trump has,unfortunately, set a destructive precedent for social media’s use in politics.
A future of falsehood
The President tweeted on Saturday, March 4th, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’…” exclaiming that “this is McCarthyism!” and followed it with a barrage of personal attacks on Obama and the Democratic party. This episode reveals the most pressing issue with social media in politics: the ability to easily and rapidly spread lies. Trump has no proof of such claims whatsoever, and his sole motivation for tweeting such inflammatory and fallacious statements is to distract his followers from scandals that threaten his own authority.
Using social media as a campaign tool is distressing when one realizes how simple it is to build an online mechanism of unyielding supporters who—without question—retweet, share or otherwise pass on lies. Such lies can even supplant the truth when all a politician has to do is dismiss the media as “fake news” to earn himself credibility. If Donald Trump’s Twitter war on fact continues without strong opposition, truth threatens to become a relative term when it suits political convenience.