Did Trump Have the Upper Hand?


In general, the internet has allowed our world to grow in terms of global communication tremendously.  Of all the social media platforms available today, Twitter is one of the most popular, especially amongst political candidates.  “In 2016, 44% of U.S. adults reported having learned about the 2016 presidential election in the past week from social media, outpacing both local and national print newspapers” (Pew Research Center, 2016).  In comparison to previous election years, this is a pretty significant change in the way our world is choosing to receive its information. For most “people, especially in the United States, social media is the easiest and most convenient way to receive news.  Social media seems to be a means of connecting in the hopes of receiving real information.  While this is not to indicate that all tweets and posts are inaccurate, the growth of social media is beginning to treat users more like an ‘audience’ instead of an inclusive group with opinions that are being addressed appropriately.  According to Shirky,  “growth in group size alone is enough to turn a community into an audience, social software, no matter what its design, will never be able to create a group that is both large and densely interconnected” (Shirky, 2002, p. 1).  We see this playing out in the world of Twitter.  So many people turn to this particular platform to receive any and all information, making it a very powerful source to users. Unfortunately, the more popular these types of social media sites become, the less personal they will feel to its users.  

Hamby addresses the issue of the lack of experience that political reporters now possess. It seems that more and more political candidates are turning to social media to make their mark on the public.  “More and more, the mainstream political press is being cut out of the election process, raising questions about the value of being a reporter” (Hamby, 2013, p. 5).  Interestingly enough, we saw this to be true in the most recent election.  While Clinton, Sanders, and Trump all had active social media accounts, Trumps were the most successful with the public.  While both Clinton and Sanders focused more on linking their followers back to their campaign pages, Trump focused moreso on connecting his followers to the news media online.  Essentially, he relied less on reporters and his campaign team and strived to direct his followers to material that was already floating around in the media that was available to him.  In the end, this gave Trump the upper hand in terms of retweets, comments, follows, and Facebook reactions. Could it be that the way Trump utilized social media was one of the main reasons he won the election?

Lastly, I want to address the way Trump handled the public in terms of social media. McGonigal states that “The economy of engagement is also an economy of feelings, in which positive emotions—pride, curiosity, love, and feeling smart—are the ultimate reward for participation” (2008, p. 16).  Trump played on these “feelings” as McGonigal states.  Over time, our world has been brainwashed to believe that money is the root of all motivation.  Of all people for this statement to fall on, it would be Donald Trump.  However, he proved us wrong in terms of the election. Of all the candidates, he was the one to engage with the public most.  He took the time (or maybe people he hired took the time, which would be ironic) to answer the public and post what they were saying.  He cared more about the people following him than his campaign.  Do you feel like his engagement with the public was sincere?  Did you notice that Trump seemed to be the most prominent presidential candidate on Twitter during election season?  


Candidates differ in their use of social media to connect with the public. (2016, July 18th). Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org/2016/07/18/candidates-differ-in-their-use-of-social-media-to-connect-with-the-public/


The power of Twitter in the 2016 election

I will start this week’s blog post with a little disclaimer ** yes, I am a journalist, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything other journalists do or how some things are done in the industry.
Even though Twitter was used in previous elections, I think one of the most popular topics discussed this election was President Donald Trump’s use of the social media site throughout his campaign and in his first several months as president.
In “Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus? Searching for a better way to cover a campaign,” from the start noticed a connection to the 2016 presidential election – a hatred for media. Maybe it’s because I was in college during the 2012 election and wasn’t the most involved then, but I didn’t realize in the Romney election, his chief strategist Stuart Stevens hated the media just like now President Donald Trump (#fakenews), and he also used Twitter as his medium of release.
“Stevens’ missives were often more whimsical or esoteric than mean, but it was clear he harbored some deep resentments about the press and its treatment of his candidate.”
The use of Twitter was talked about in 2013 when the article was published, but what would it say now about the recent election? “Candidates and politicians are increasingly trying to present their messages on their own terms, either through politically friendly news outlets or their own social media channels.” I think this is proven even more true this election with President Trump’s excessive use of his Twitter account, and certainly his freedom of speech mentality.
Reading the section “Boys on the Bus,” made me realize – as a journalist – how I would love to report on a presidential campaign. However, I noticed with the 2016 election (and maybe it’s been done before, but again I never paid much attention the way I do now) is there was actually news stories done on television about the journalists who road on the buses, planes and gave up their lives for the year to report solely on the election and candidates. Good Morning America I know sat down with three journalists and spoke with them about their experiences, which I thought was nice because it allowed the viewers to learn more about the people behind the keyboard. I think this helped to give them more credibility.
I also felt with this election, more eyes were on it following the candidates every moves largely because of the media. I agree in the “Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus?” article, “Every one of their moves is obsessively documented and breathlessly promoted, either on websites or on Twitter, by reporters hungry for even the tiniest crumb of unique information.” However, my argument to that would be … if people didn’t tune in or read what the reporters put out there, they wouldn’t do it. There’s a reason reporters do the things they do. Believe me, it’s not because we always love it, but because that’s what some people feed in to. I’m not saying it’s always right.
The 2016 presidential election, I think, really highlighted the use of two-way media discussed in “Clay Shirky’s Writings About the Internet: Networks, Economics and Culture.” Obviously we all know the internet reaches more people quickly. But, once again with our “unique” new president, Trump used Twitter more of a two-way media than I think most other candidates did. Between the Twitter wars with Trump and democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, to Trump and Rosie O’Donnell battling it out in 140 characters each. “The growth of two-way media, however, shows that the audience pattern re-establishes itself in one way or another…” But I think this might have made the candidates more “human” to voters. It made more people tune in to see what’s next and engaged the voter to be able to side one way or another.
Twitter also allowed the candidates to spread to more voters by not being limited to geography (“The internet era on the other hand has created a world in which a person may speak to another on the other side of the planet with a just a few millisecond delay, effectively removing the geographic barrier,” said in the article “Mapping the global Twitter heartbeat: The geography of Twitter.”). Twitter also allowing voters to know where they’re tweeting from. Mentioned in “Mapping the global Twitter heartbeat: The geography of Twitter,” “since 2009, Twitter has allowed tweets to include geographic metadata indicating the location where the tweet was authored.” Voters were able to follow candidates closer on the campaign trail through Twitter. I think this was highlighted particularly toward the end of the campaign season for the candidates when they were still holding rallies up until the last second possible, including last-minute rallies in Pennsylvania.
I think Twitter was a defining factor in the 2016 election between the use of the medium from the candidates themselves, to the journalists who followed their every tweet and putting more information out to the voter through Twitter. But Twitter seems to be becoming less popular with the younger generation. Do you think it will eventually become like Myspace and go away? Or do you think we will see it used just as much in the next election?