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Viewpoint: Social Media in the Trump Era

Is the Trump Era of Twitter a breakthrough for democracy or a step back?

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Gone are the days when we used to be able to use social media as merely a place to talk to friends and post cute photos taken with our camera phones. Over the past few years, social media has taken on a completely new look, and this has become mostly apparent through the way it has been used since Donald Trump took office… and from even before that.

The fact that the president of the United States uses social media — mostly Twitter — to express his thoughts on people,  government officials, social, economic and political issues, and on other matters that are largely irrelevant. This is a relatively new phenomenon.

Discussions about the president’s policies, mental health and other matters are discussed on the same social media platforms, putting people from largely different walks of life on the same playing field.

Commentaries and opinions pour in every single day from various outputs regarding issues facing the country, the world or just people in general. People offering their opinions are not always experts on the matter, nor have they experienced enough to have much say.

However, that is both the advantage and disadvantage of our overarching and always expanding social media — anyone and everyone can have something to say, and they have every right to say it, and that includes the president. And Twitter seems to be the vehicle most people use to share their own opinions.

There is no doubt that having a president who is so active on Twitter has allowed a major shift to take place in terms of social media environment.

In many ways, this new  Twitter era is refreshing and conducive to our society’s rhythm. Allowing people to have their own say on any matter has allowed people to have thoughtful and educating discussions on a public forum where anyone is given the opportunity to participate.

Even Trump himself can be interacted with; there is nothing stopping me, a Twitter user with only about 300 followers, from replying to a tweet made by the president. This eradication of barriers gives the people a chance to say what they want to the “leader” of their nation, which is an example of democracy itself.

However, an issue that might arise here is how these discussions and interactions can be taken into tangents without a proper moderator.

Because the reality of it is that on Twitter, there is no real moderator in any of the discussions. There is no real policing of thought, except by the people on the social media themselves. This can also be a good thing; however, there is always a risk in tangents taking place.

There is no doubt that having a president who is so active on Twitter has allowed a major shift to take place in terms of social media environment. People are using social media in ways that may not have been possible 10 years ago, and are now interacting with figures who were previously out of reach.

With the many pros and cons associated with this new phenomenon, it is necessary to see what more comes out of this social media movement.

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Fatima is a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she is majoring in Journalism and also pursuing a minor in Business.

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