Donald Trump has a Wikipedia page dedicated entirely to his use of social media, a unique internet presence for a president. While President Obama operated a Twitter account, his use of the platform was primarily for campaigning purposes and was certainly not as active during his tenure. Instead, it is President Trump who earns the moniker “Twitter President,” as was bestowed by The Independent last year.
Trump has produced a variety of tweets characterized by occasional racism, sexism, and sporadic capitalization, some of which have us half-convinced, or half-hoping, that they are satire. And yet, for all the uses for which Trump employs his Twitter account, the idea of the president of the United States of America, an extremely influential figures, using social media to directly connect with the American people on a personal level is extraordinary.
Now of course, in isolation, Trump’s eccentric twitter habits could be harmless; Twitter was practically designed to be a means of sharing opinions, regardless of how unpopular. Had Trump’s account been disassociated from his role, one could certainly look in distaste at the egotism he displays, but that would be the extent of it. However, because Trump’s tweets have since become, as put in The Washington Times, an “integral and controversial part of his presidency” since his election, his constant allusions to his role while spreading news and ideas qualifies @realDonaldTrump as a “public forum.” Thus, in accordance with a federal ruling in May, Trump cannot block Twitter users from viewing or commenting on the account, as it would be a violation of the first amendment right to free speech. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Justice has announced that Trump’s tweets should be taken as “official presidential statements,” contributing to his presidential records. This is problematic.
When a source of information is regarded as an “official presidential statement,” it is taken to be a credible source. In theory, open dialogue between the president and the American people conducted in such an efficient manner would be incredible, a modern representation of the democracy on which we pride ourselves as Americans. However, in Trump’s case, one glaring flaw is his duly earned reputation for making false or misleading claims, of which there have been over 7,000 since the start his presidency. Many of these extend to his tweets, most in the form of either exaggerations about the state of the economy or flawed statistics related to the illegal behavior of various racial demographics. Additionally, Trump’s quick temper has led him to attempt to block several users who dare to offer negative criticism. This may be completely acceptable on the private twitter account of a loud businessman, but as president, Trump must recognize the right of the people to freedom of speech and be open to acknowledging their commentary as opposed to shunning it.
The most painful part of reading a daily “Trump tweet” condemning a news station that speaks ill of him or attacking “that phony/dummy/lightweight/sleazebag [insert name of political opponent here]” is the knowledge that this form of communication has so much positive potential. If only Trump were to refrain from using the platform to attack groups or people in an almost bullying fashion, the tweets could foster unity instead of discord. If Trump wants to effectively use this almost revolutionary tool, he should tailor his tweets to the entire American population, not just his group of devout supporters. Additionally, as the most obvious solution, Trump should consider simply fact-checking before introducing information or making wild claims that utterly destroy the credibility of his account.
Trump is the reason we will probably wind up learning how to cite tweets in the Chicago-Turabian format, and for that, in a way, we should be grateful—he is, in fact, paving the way for an entirely new form of communication between the president and the people. However, unless he can learn to employ it effectively, this platform is wasted on our current head of state.