The Twitter President

What does Trump’s additional role mean for the future of American presidencies?

Donald Trump is the world’s first patriarch of political social media.

It’s quite a statement. Possibly over the top. Maybe fittingly so.

And I’m sure you’re thinking that President Obama could vouch for that title. His eight years in the West Wing conveniently travelled parallel with the social media boom that has transformed how society as we know it functions.

And a tweet from the @BarackObama handle after his 2012 victory was, at the time, the most popular tweet ever.

But not even Obama would suggest he uses social media like his successor.

Tweeting under the @realDonaldTrump handle, Trump’s commentary is relentless, like a toddler discovering speech.

Yet President Trump is on record as saying that he would stop tweeting if elected, deeming it “unpresidential”. So why has he carried on?

Stuck in his ways

Margarita Noriega, Executive Editor at Newsweek, suggests that Trump possesses a unique form of power as a result of his Twitter presence.

Noriega said: “He comes from the generation shaped mostly by how TV works, where communication only goes one way.

“In the age of social media, it may be troubling for him to use a technology where reporting and the spin cycle, truthful or not, is utterly outside of his control.”

She added: “I can’t speak [of] his motives, but he seems like a person who would prefer to communicate ‘broadcast’ style — that only goes one way.”

“Donald Trump’s social media platforms are a very powerful way for him to communicate and connect directly with people.”

The ability to click send and watch everything unfold is certainly empowering. And Donald Trump is a man used to power. So much so that he took on Washington heavyweights and now works from the Oval Office.

In a post-election interview with the Times, Trump said: “…the tweeting, I thought I’d do less of it, but I’m covered so dishonestly by the press – so dishonestly – that I can put out Twitter – and it’s not 140, it’s now 280 – I can go bing bing bing…and they put it on and as soon as I tweet it out – this morning on television, Fox – ‘Donald Trump, we have breaking news’.”

These outbursts by Trump and his team regarding so-called ‘fake news’ have strengthened the President’s stance on using his personal Twitter account.

And his Twitter account is also one of his unique selling points, connecting and empowering both a politician and their electorate through a relatively new medium.

Speaking to NBC, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway said: “Donald Trump’s social media platforms are a very powerful way for him to communicate and connect directly with people.”

Limitations to the game

Trump’s Twitter presidency comes with its dangers, some being his own making – he reportedly still uses an unsecured Android phone.

Speaking to VOA News, Chris Dore, a Chicago lawyer working on privacy and technology issues, said: “Twitter accounts get hacked all the time.”

Dore added: “If people got a hold of Trump’s Twitter account, they could pass on false information about a business, or create an international crisis, so they could gain financially.”

The President’s Twitter presence has that power. His tweets can send shockwaves throughout the world, setting the news agenda for days and  impacting upon stock exchanges across continents.

Fictional inspirations

The phenomenon of social media has even found its way into fictional politics. House of Cards (US) sees Republican presidential hopeful Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman) utilising live webcasting, another relatively new form of media that has grown thanks to the likes of YouTube and Periscope.

Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman) in House of Cards (US). PHOTO: Netflix.

Western society supplies and demands content like this at an alarming rate. It’s perfect for someone who has found themselves in a situation where power comes in many forms.

Trump has the audience to be heard – 46 million people follow his updates on Facebook and Twitter – which makes it a very powerful tool for him.

PHOTO: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Restricting himself to the @POTUS handle has been discussed. But whether that would be representative of the President is debatable.

After all, The Donald forms his own prerogative, and formality more often than not comes without personality.

We’re witnessing the future of presidential communications unfold in front of our eyes. For now, Trump rules the roost. He is the Twitter President. Once America’s done with him, expect the mantle to be passed on to his successor, no matter how much Trump may or may not want to let go of it.