This past Friday, I was riding the bus from my internship back to University City. As it is normally a long ride, I opened my laptop and read some of the articles for this class. Not long after I got on the bus, An older woman hopped on the 40 and sat behind me. I was reading through an article that showed a graphic of Donald Trump’s social media scope and reach. Through the music playing on my earbuds, I heard her comment on what I was reading. I couldn’t exactly hear what she said, but it was something along the lines of, “Oh my goodness. Don’t you get tired from reading all of this stuff?” I turned around and explained to her that I was, but I had to read this article for my Social Media class, as our next class would be dedicated to studying Trump’s social media presence as it related to the campaign. She replied, “what a time to be studying social media!”
We had a lovely, short, kind of sad conversation. She explained that she worked for a nonprofit that helps refugees and the Executive Order that was signed earlier that morning would prevent her organization from assisting Syrian refugees. She also said that the day after the election she logged off her Facebook until the Inauguration. She told me that she was afraid and that she had never been this afraid before. Shortly after, she left the bus and said “It’s going to get worse before it gets better, love. Best of luck to you! I hope you can make some sense of this.” I wished her the same and continued my reading.
So here I am, trying to make sense of this, as countless others have done before me.
Social media is a place of gathering. People of all interests, religious affiliations, and political views can interact, for better or for worse. Sometimes social media can be a platform for positive discussion. More often than not, however, it can also serve as an agent for polarization. And boy, have we seen that in the previous presidential election cycle.
There are many ways the 2016 election ended the way it did. I think the easiest way to understand it is through social media.
No matter what you think about the guy, Trump is a master at social media. He tweets a minimum of 10 times per day and maintains many social media pages besides his pet Twitter. He does this through his staffers. We can glean that Tweets from his iPhone are from his staffers, while the tweets from his Android are from the man himself. Hillary struggled to garner as much support with her campaign. At one point, she tried to ask her Twitter followers how they felt about student debt “in 3 emojis or less,” an attempt that fell flat. Hillary only boasts of 12.8 million Twitter followers, paling in comparison to Trump’s 22.8 million. His internet presence peppered with his controversial slogans of “Build that Wall,” and “Drain the Swamp”led to him creating a recipe so delicious to his followers, that he fed the beast of divisive rhetoric in the social network arena. It worked for him; he is now in the White House.
But just how sustainable is this?
Sure, he made a lot of promises and lashed out at various opponents on Twitter (“Lyin’ Ted,” “Crooked Hillary,” etc.). Sure, he made a media circus. And sure, major media outlets gave him the time of day on all their platforms. All of these are factors which led to him getting elected. But that was 2016. That was before he was inaugurated. This is reality. If his words had power before, they have the entire world by its ears now. Now that Trump has been inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States (still weird to think about) he has a new set of responsibilities, including diplomacy. Uniting a divided nation. Working to ensure peace. There have been various protests against him since his inauguration not only in the United States, but also across the world. In the past week, he signed over 12 executive orders which has only further cracked the ozone layer of our split nation. So far, his track record isn’t boding well.
I argue that it isn’t sustainable. I argue that we haven’t seen the worst of it yet. I argue if you aren’t afraid now, like the woman I met on the bus, then you should be.