BY RAJITMEET SINGH
In an age dominated by the Internet, one’s thoughts and comments can receive an unprecedented amount of attention. However, the technological makeover of the modern world has blurred the public’s vision of reality by giving people the ability to choose from which media source one receives their news. This caused a distortion in the presidential election; what was once an honorable civic duty turned into offensive unfiltered speech on social media. Up until now, social media has been largely used as a tool for party machines to identify and target possible voters, or as an instrument to energize supporters. However, many are continuously looking for both news and entertainment on social media today, which, through its prevalence, became a key tool for both scrutinizing the other party’s candidate as well as helping candidates understand their own demographics. Social media has warped the way we perceive politicians, and has pushed politicians to become increasingly polarized through social media.
Almost three-quarters of Americans have a social media profile, so it is clear why it is necessary for a candidate to have a presence online. However, Americans must consider whether the social media of political figures can be considered a reliable source of information. Although social media was originally made for college students, there are now many different social networking sites catering to their own unique audiences. However, social media networks typically have problems with the way meaningful data is provided. Since information tends to be viewed in short bursts without context or citation, it widens the distinction between what is real and what is fake; as a result, facts on social media tend to be unreliable. However, many people have become skeptical about mainstream media in the U.S. because citizens believe large institutions like traditional media are bought off by corrupt wealthy elites. Trump’s ascendancy exhibited that assumption. His gigantic amplifier was and is Twitter, and it has garnered him a record following of seven million people. However, for such a prolific social media user as Trump, tweets become like bombshells, often retweeted as objects of criticism, and do little to help him appear more presidential. In contrast to Clinton, whose social media presence throughout the campaign, sounded to many, rehearsed to a fault, Trump’s forthright approach online led him to be labeled as “honest,” a quality that has been said to be lacking in politics and reflects the strength of his identity. Social media has played an unprecedented role in these elections, directly or indirectly polarizing each candidate’s party.
More importantly, many have suggested that the type of information that was shared online skewed individual perceptions of the election’s landscape. People naturally thrive by finding like-minded individuals. Take a percentage of Trump supporters, for instance, who affirm their views with one another in their belief that white America is great, or that Congress had funded the Islamic State, often in angry and provocative ways. Out of a sample of 10,000 Trump supporters, a total of 3,549 supporters followed on Twitter anywhere from one to ten white nationalist accounts. While that does not necessarily make any of them an adherent to white supremacy, it does suggest something about the nature of Trump’s Twittersphere. At his rallies, numerous violent incidents involving Trump supporters continues to grow, many of them having to do with racism. One incident took place in New York, where a black protester was shoved in the face twice by a supporter. Trump later compared a different protester’s actions at the same event to “what’s happening with ISIS.” Moving from the Internet realm to the real world, Trump remained unfiltered, calling Mexican immigrant rapists. He is often considered unfit to be president for calling for the ban of all Muslims in America. Furthermore, Trump contradicts himself a lot between his online persona and his official statements, and it is clear that the Americans who follow Trump believe and support him in his online rhetoric.
The most powerful job in the world requires Americans to break the groupthink state of mind of social media and find answers to difficult questions by challenging one’s own attitudes and beliefs with different citizens rather than depreciating the cornerstone of democracy in America. Clinton demonstrated a rehearsed politician to many; however, even President Obama called Clinton the most qualified candidate ever to be running for the Presidency. The fact that Trump cites outrageous falsehoods uncontrollably on social media, and that he hopes many of his supporters are listening, is not something an American president does. Trump likes that his supporters riot at his rallies when he provokes their emotions about returning America to its former glory days. In fact, our analysis of Trump’s Twitter makes it transparent, in other words, how social media has normalized incredulous ideas like white supremacy, and can change the perceptions of candidates in the real world.