The President and his Tweet Addiction

Should President Trump use Twitter?


Jehiel Butt

A nearly 300 year old democracy is in danger of being tweeted away.

It’s been eight years and over 36,000 tweets since the @realDonaldTrump account was created.  Back then, Donald Trump was an established businessman known as one who strove to build an image of strength and power, which he invoked not only through the emblematic Trump Real Estate name, but also through his appearances on reality television shows such as ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘The Miss America Beauty Pageant.’ It was then, back in 2009, that his marking staffer, Peter Costanzo, pitched the idea for him to make a Twitter account.

Up to that point, social media was perceived by many to be a teenage wasteland where teens sent their messages into the void without thought. The oversimplification of ideas commonly seen on social media was diametrically opposed to the verbose ways in which the older generation loved to communicate. In fact, Twitter was seen as an abomination to many adults; a 140 character limit made messages sound like an eccentric age-bound discourse. But for Trump, these 140 characters helped to script his rise to the national scene and gave him the trajectory to become the President of the United States.

In June 2015, Trump came roaring into the presidential race. His belligerent style of speaking and his fiery tweets garnered him instant popularity. Up to that point, Trump had a reputation for frequenting his views on Twitter.  In 2012, he tweeted, “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” Though this tweet lacked credence, it gained  traction among Americans because of Twitter’s ability to effectively spread messages. By employing this technique on a broad spectrum of issues along the campaign trail, Trump was able to resonate with a large number of voters.  

“Twitter democratizes and shakes up the genteel inertia of modern political dialogue, for better or for worse.”

As Trump rose from Candidate Trump to President Trump, the posts that initially garnered him popularity resulted in scorn and condemnation. Due to the controversial nature of his comments on issues such as the Muslim ban, climate change, and police brutality, Trump was left reeling from criticism. On the flip side, combined with Twitter’s speedy reach to an ordinary household, he was able to convert his message into 1984-style propaganda, which allowed himself to retain a large base of voters, and respond to his opponents with evidence-free accusations.

Although President Trump has artfully used Twitter to rally voters around him, his tweets have also isolated, divided and offended many minorities and religious denominations. Trump extended his campaign-mode tweets and populist demagoguery into the White House without realizing that Candidate Trump’s tweets were designed to impact his voters whereas President Trump’s tweets may affect the world.

Ms. Kountourakis of the Social Studies Department believes that Mr. Trump’s use of Twitter will take some time to adjust to. “Twitter democratizes and shakes up the genteel inertia of modern political dialogue, for better or for worse. I think it’s going to take a little while before people start to feel completely comfortable with twitter as a means of political communication.”

Jehiel Butt
Ms. Kountourakis believes that adjusting to tweets as political rhetoric will take some time.

Though some Mr. Trump’s use of twitter may be something that we adjust to eventually, others believe it is essential that President Trump reassesses his use of Twitter immediately. The image that he tried to project  back in 2009 is not suited to the current U.S. Presidency.

Additionally, President Trump is expected not to equivocate his messages, but he clearly continues to do so, thereby failing to clearly delineate the policies of the United States to the world. He recently commented on North Korea, saying that they, “wouldn’t be around much longer.” Shortly thereafter, the North Korean Foreign Minister, Ri Yong Ho, responded by claiming that such tweets were “clearly a declaration of war.” When asked about North Korea’s defense plans, Ho said, “ I think it could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific.”

Photo by Jehiel Butt
Prithibe Ahmed ’19 believes that President Trump’s use of Twitter is problematic.

Twitter may be an effective medium of communication, but, “the President cannot comprehend the monsters lurking on his Twitter account,” said Prithibe Ahmed ’19.

As far as the presidency of the most powerful nation in the world is concerned, a short, ambiguous tweet in a situation can lead to an irreversible misunderstanding. Such misunderstandings may have disastrous effects on the lives of millions of people, especially with an added nuclear dimension.

Mr. President, 36,000 tweets may have been fine, but the next thousand will be full of landmines. And walking on landmines is not an art.