For a handful of minutes last Thursday night, those who searched for Donald Trump’s Twitter account were greeted with an uncharacteristically apologetic message: “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!” It was a sharp contrast to the typical slew of damaging assertions and outbursts that occupy his feed.
Despite Twitter’s claim that this was due to a system error, it was soon revealed that a rogue employee had actually deleted the President’s personal account on his last day at the company. Once Trump’s virtual lifeline was back up and running, he told his 42 million followers that it was clear his Twitter was “having an impact.” Trump’s boast is hardly out of character and he is open about his fondness for the social media tool, telling Fox News in a recent interview that, “When somebody says something about me, I am able to go bing, bing, bing and I take care of it.”
However, his prolific and vociferous use of the medium has arguably caused him as many headaches as self-styled PR victories. His consistent keyboard courage led to the public demanding he be ousted from the platform (if not the Oval Office itself) before he sparks a nuclear war with Kim Jong-un, who saw Trump’s declaration that he “won’t be around much longer” as a declaration of war.
More importantly Trump has proved that digital insults and slander don’t need to be a last resort for campaigners. He understands Twitter as a platform where users benefit from saying the outrageous and controversial as it helps to disseminate what is being said, sparking conversation. Trump has noted the importance of Twitter particularly as a means to bypass what he has infamously dubbed the “fake news” media.
Social media is Trump’s preferred way of directly conveying his message, it appeals to those who want information quickly, without the airs and graces. It seems his Twitter not only skirts the media, but can somewhat dictate it. A clear phenomenon has arisen whereby a tweet consisting of a few choice sentences can wholly besiege the news agenda. Trump can thus inadvertently exercise a modicum of control over the reporters he denigrates.
Past presidents have carefully drafted speeches for weeks, while a tweet is written in a matter of moments and when it comes to Trump they seem to demand an immediate reaction. Twitter is a superb tool for brief announcements and facile feuding, but a medium with a 280-character limit is hardly apt for explaining the intricacies of Trump’s various policies.
The deletion of his Twitter highlights the integral role which his social media continues to play in his presidency, and may serve as an indicator of who, and what, the American people will adapt to and embrace in the future.