Don't let Trump's use of Twitter sour you on politicians' use of the medium

A direct link between constituents and representatives is important to a functioning democracy

Picture this: It’s five in the morning on another cold day in Washington D.C., President Trump prepares for busy day of being president of the free world by smashing buttons on his cell phone, sending out messages 140 characters at a time.

While on some mornings, he is at least seemingly content.

Other times, “fake news” can make him wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

Although he often begins around 5 A.M., Trump will tweet throughout the day about whatever is on his mind, whether it is about new developments from his administration, the news media being his enemy or whatever comes to mind.

Trump’s use of twitter is undoubtedly one of the quintessential elements of the Trump Administration, especially in how the president is referenced on ASU's campus.

“Did you see what Trump said,” has likely been uttered thousands of times by now, especially among groups in majors like journalism and political science, where politics are especially relevant.

The American people don’t seem to like Trump’s use of the platform much either. In a NBC-Wall Street Journal poll done shortly before his inauguration, 55 percent of Americans said they strongly opposed Trump’s use of Twitter. A Marist poll in December found that 66 percent of American voters saw his use of Twitter as “reckless and distracting.”

But one thing that I think gets lost in the mess is this: although there is little doubt that Trump uses it incorrectly, Twitter is actually a pretty good platform for democracy in a lot of ways.

Although unfiltered and not fact-checked, browsing a politician's Twitter, you can learn where they stand ideologically.

From the left

To the right

Sometimes they even get to frame a political decision, as can be seen from Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) when she let a Twitter poll decide whether she would go to Trump’s inauguration.

Elizabeth van Iersel is a communications specialist who currently teaches a course on political communication at ASU.

Van Iersel said that while Trump may be doing it in a unique manner, he is not the first to bypass the media in an attempt to get his message out.

“That's what FDR did exactly with the fireside chats. In a partial attempt to control the message, he went right to the people,” van Iersel said.

However, she also pointed out that while FDR often held press conferences, President Trump went six full months without holding one. And when he does hold them, they can get combative.

Van Iersel says that while she believes President Trump is using Twitter to speak to his base of support, the platform is not a perfect mode of communication.

“I think you always have to consider the limitations of it the medium, obviously constrained in the use of Twitter in that you can't say a lot in 140 characters,” van Iersel said. “To me it's a supplemental tool rather than a primary tool.”

It’s easy to criticize Trump’s Twitter use, mostly because it is almost undeniably an unethical use of the medium. He’s used it to say global warming was a hoax created by the Chinese and seemed to blame a federal judge (and the American court system) for future terrorist attacks.

Some ASU students do not hold very favorable opinions of Trump’s use of Twitter, with many similar criticisms.

Mary Flora is a sophomore history and secondary education student at ASU. Flora said she avoids Trump’s twitter account because of her experience at President Trump’s inauguration last month, which she was able to go to through the Envision program.

“I could feel a lot of hatred and a lot of negativity at that inauguration and I don't want that in my life,” Flora said. “It was a conscious decision.”

Cooper Newnam is freshman industrial design major. He says that while it is unpresidential to tweet like Trump does, it shows people his true form.

“I think it’s unbecoming of a leader because he doesn’t really censor what he says,” Newnam said. “But it also is nice because it shows you who he really is.”

Twitter is a medium that can definitely be abused, and unfortunately we now have someone in the oval office who does just that. But if it is done right, it’s also a place where you can communicate your policies, speak directly to constituents, and find solidarity with others through things like hashtags.

I will never take any Democrat or Republican completely at their word, but there is something to be said about being able to communicate directly with the American people in this 21st century Twitterverse of ideas.

Let’s just do it right.


Reach the columnist at Marinodavidjr@gmail.com or follow @Marinodavidjr on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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