Max Reichardt is a communications senior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
More than five years ago, Barack Obama had just won re-election over a guy named after a baseball glove. Most of us were saying our goodbyes and getting our affairs in order before the impending Mayan apocalypse, predicted to take place Dec. 21, 2012. Through all the noise, a lone voice, almost forgotten, cried out to the internet masses in chilling prophecy: “I love Twitter… it’s like owning your own newspaper— without the losses.”
The author? None other than future president and Twitter abuser Donald Trump, then — and now, arguably — most well-known for his signature phrase, “You’re fired.”
Today, Trump’s Twitter feed is his personal propaganda machine — and it works like a charm. His Twitter use has been the subject of scrutiny since long before he was a candidate, back when he was merely a reality TV personality. Celebrities, like many of us, enjoy Twitter as a social network that is uniquely able to keep up with the seemingly endless flow of information we encounter through the vehicle of our smartphones. With its initial design of a 140-character limit, retweeting and quoting of other tweets, the platform sought to keep blurbs of information and media small and palatable for a constantly-scrolling audience.
For Trump, Twitter is the venue of his dreams, a place for him to sound off on any and all topics to his nearly 44 million followers, many of them likely bots. Anything is fair game: Hillary Clinton, CNN , Fox News, nonexistent Time magazine offers, crowd sizes, feuds with “ungrateful“ basketball dads, attacks on dissenting members of Congress and pretty much anything else. However disjointed, inflammatory and ridiculous Trump’s tweets are, they are invaluable in attracting one of his favorite things in the world: attention.
Trump constantly criticizes cable news — except for Fox — and mainstream newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post for being “fake,” likely because of their generally unfavorable coverage of him and his administration. He believes the mainstream media is antagonistic to his agenda, and that they will do anything in their power to invent or spin stories to discredit him. Twitter is his “own newspaper,” as he quipped years ago, and is his most direct means to reach his most loyal “followers.”
The crazy part is that the mainstream media picks up even the most ridiculous Trump tweets and runs with them as if they are, as Twitter claims, newsworthy. If they want to expose him as flippant, reckless, immature and downright rude, they have succeeded.
It’s easy to share the anguish and frustration of the media, and I don’t blame them for pushing back against a buffoon who belittles them almost constantly.
Yet, the media he so despises is playing into his hand and spreading his message to even more people, as Axios pointed out. Twitter is the place for Trump to reach young people and journalists, who then pass off his message to cable news, news websites and other social networks like Facebook and Instagram with a more global reach— for example, Facebook has about two billion users, compared to Twitter’s 330 million.
Twitter enables Trump, and sometimes Social Media Director Dan Scavino, to instantly broadcast whatever’s on their minds to millions. It’s one of the best ways for Trump to reach a younger audience, as more than three times as many young adults (aged 18 to 29) online use Twitter, opposed to users of Trump’s age (65+), according to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey.
Trump’s tweets may seem funny or inconsequential at times, but we have to recognize the vast and very real impact they have on our world. We are tuned in to the Trump channel 24/7, and I think that’s just how he likes it.
My advice to you? Be smart, and don’t buy in. Resist. Question both Trump and the media narrative alike, and don’t be satisfied until you research things on your own. Recognize the immense consequences of the President’s social media use, and do not take it lightly — conservative, liberal or in between.