Fire & Fury: The Casual Insignificance of Twitter
Anyone who's spent any amount of time on Twitter can see that the worst thing about Twitter is that anyone can have a Twitter. It was by far the easiest way to get something out to the world – I timed how long it took to make an account and tweet something, and it was 25 seconds. It's for that reason that Twitter is seen as something trivial. It's a void – even though there's plenty of stuff inside it, it all feels like it sums to nothing at all. You cast something in and occasionally, to your delight, something will shoot back out, only to deck you right in the face. It's built on the reactionary mentality and survives on the premise that you can be 'in the moment' when things are happening, which is really the epitome of people who still comment "first" on a YouTube video and bask in their sense of achievement. It's just about as limiting too – 140 characters is far more infuriating and exceptionally less impactful than 5. It serves as an overstuffed news – or meme, depending on your use – aggregator, without moderation and infused with billions of unnecessary words. Its signature feature (the character limit) is also its greatest inhibiter when it comes to original or meaningful content, kind of like Snapchat's ten second clock if that was all Snapchat was good for. It lacks the quality threshold of Instagram, the personal intimacy of Facebook, and even the niche usefulness of MySpace (yes, the 2017 version). All to say, Twitter's perception ranges from useless to silly to inconsequential. And that's the reason that in a certain context, it becomes dangerous.
Donald Trump is the president of the United States, and he also tweets. Such a thing is not uncommon (well, kind of uncommon since Jefferson and Lincoln didn't have Twitter access) considering Barack Obama tweeted once every few days while President, mostly some boring inspirational platitude, sometimes tweeting in other languages, and once even congratulating the Cavs on their NBA championship win. His personal Twitter account – which notably has almost three times as many followers as Trump's personal account – was primarily an advertisement of Obamacare and reminders about climate change. Trump, conversely, is actually pretty good at Twitter, and he was good even before becoming president; there was the one where he forgot Steve Jobs was dead (morbidly funny), and the one where he said Obama wanted to change the name of the White House because it was racist (presidentially funny), and then a month later he realized that Jobs was dead after all (considering that Jobs had died over two years prior, objectively funny).
If there was a President of Twitter, I'd vote for him (Jaden Smith is a close second, but he's become too self-aware lately). But the problem is that Twitter – arguably Trump's most marketable skill – is the antithesis to the presidency. But because we associate him so closely with the network, we tend to pass all aspects of his personality through the Twitter filter. It's easy when the tweets that made Trump seem dumb (like the taco bowls on Cinco de Mayo, the covfefe situation, and the CNN takedown) are mixed in with serious accusations (like the Obama wiretaps, the possibility of recordings of conversations with Comey, and the divisiveness of the fifth estate).
When the vast majority of America decried things he said as 'bad', it was a rallying cry of his base back with the mantra that the press took him "literally, but not seriously," while they themselves took him "seriously, but not literally." Why was that? Perhaps it was because every morning, we opened our favorite news site to see Trump's latest 3AM firestorm not to understand him, but to laugh at him? Even given the poor grammar and incoherent thought, if a compilation of his Tweets with some logical flow were posted on Medium or even Blogspot, they'd be taken in a completely different light. Maybe we don't snicker at him as much when he says things he means, always trying to find the comedic angle. The current gravitation isn't necessarily towards news but towards comedy, which no matter how well-meaning, always falls short of having the same quantity of information.
It's alarming considering that this is a time when educators try to find ways to make grade-school classes more 'fun' (as if we need that dopamine hit of a meme every time we solve a math problem). With kids, you feel the need to incentivize and motivate while you hold them captive for eight hours a day. You wouldn't expect that to bleed over into politics that (unlike middle-school geometry) have a tangible effect on the lives of adults (who are notably older and more disciplined than children). Especially when an average day hardly lacks in entertainment.
As he said, "I don't kid." Fire and fury, indeed.