There is a very good likelihood that I am about to deliberately descend into the rabbit hole where I will be lost in a strange and incomprehensible world. Like a good number of you, my understanding of social media is minimal. Granted, I am slightly ahead of the Patriot’s Coach, Bill Belichick who recently referred to electronic sites with made up names like “SnapFace” and “InstantChat.” Though I don’t participate directly in social media, I am aware of Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Snapchat, Linkelin and YouTube.
I have impressions of these platforms. Facebook is where people put their egos to show off who they are, what they do, where they go, what they love and hate and how great their kids are. Snapchat is where kids, teens and young adults can make assholes of themselves. Skype is how to video chat with family and friends around the world for free. Linkelin is where to find a better job and YouTube replays an endless number of videos, mostly of pets doing stupid things.
Now, thanks to President Donald Trump, Twitter is the one that I am trying hardest to understand. Not what it is or what it does, this I believe I get. I see Twitter as a place where an individual can make a brief proclamation making a quick, brief point, the electronic version of shouting out to a crowd using a megaphone. Like using a megaphone, the individual has to stop and take deep breathes to continue. Likewise Twitter’s format forces the author to send separate messages to continue making a point.
I get this but I am just beginning to understand why it appears that Trump is addicted to Twitter but there is a rationale to his supposed madness? There was a piece in The New York Times explaining why the press / media can’t deal with Trump’s tweets. The author made the point that reporters are totally addicted to all forms of social media so as to stay on top of breaking events and not be scooped in this era of instant and changing headlines.
I have discovered that there are just over 60 different social media sites and Twitter is only the seventh most popular. Facebook is number one with well over one billion hits a month. Next is WhatsApp with 850 million, then WeChat (700), Ozone (640) Tumblr (550) and Instagram (400) before Twitter’s 320 million.
That’s just the top seven sites and how many can the average reporter possibly track at any given time? But enter Trump. In a way he simplifies the search for breaking news. Why troll sites like Google+, Viber, Line, Snapchat, Pinterest and Telegram when all one has to be is alert to the next early-morning “bulldog” edition of Trump’s tweets.
Once these messages reach the media’s hand-held devices, it is off to the races. Scribes react immediately and furiously “re-tweeting” his messages to each other and launching new versions, making commentary and issuing challenges to build the story or fact checking to verify or attack the accuracy of Trump’s tweets. It seems obvious this is the press’ / media’s intent, but it is not the consequence. Instead of developing the story, their actions and reactions actually fan the flames of Trump’s rants until they fuel fire storms sucking the oxygen out of other news much of it more important and relevant than his daily rants.
Trump breaks all of their rules of communications, analysis and distribution of information. In the pre-Trump world, policy would be presented by the President in a speech, a written presentation or a document that we once called a “white paper.” The press would react; analyze, debate, critique, challenge approve or disapprove. That’s the way media liked it and liked doing business.
Trump preempts the process through his attacking tweets. These tweets are not a new phenomenon. This has been Donald Trump’s early morning modus operandi for a dog’s age but the press didn’t pay attention until his campaign got legs. Now, media reaction converts sleeping dogs into exploding bombs that carry his message everywhere with priority and importance overshadowing other news regardless of its importance. Trump didn’t plan this, he fell into it but he’s smart enough to recognize the weapon he now has.
What the scribes and commentators should do is downplay or ignore his rants so that they develop at their own speed or slowly die from a lack of interest or real content. But the press can’t do that. It is completely alien and contrary to their addiction to the need for speed and to stay on top and ahead of breaking news. They can’t resist the scoop so they push it as hard and fast as they can.
Trump recognizes that the press can never get ahead of him because he decides when and where to strike. They can only react to what he sends out. So it works for him as they are always on their back foot and they can’t help themselves from doing it. By the time they get their hands around the subject he’s moved on to a new rant.
Think about it. In this way Trump controls the dialogue and not the press.
How long he can continue is anybody’s guess, but meanwhile, like it or not, it’s brilliant!