Online Communication

How Social Media is Changing the Landscape of American Politics

President Donald Trump

What if I told you 3 years ago that our next American president would be elected primarily by using Twitter?

I think most people would reply, “Yeah, right.”

Until recently, we’ve all thought social media was useful for entertainment, showing selfies no one wants to see or posting what we ate for lunch. Donald Trump, however, saw a different potential and changed the world.

One controversial tweet in 2015 galvanized many in the country like no other:

“Billions of dollars gets brought into Mexico through the border. We get the killers, drugs & crime, they get the money”@realDonaldTrump, July 13, 2015

People were outraged from coast to coast, but suddenly everyone was talking about illegal immigration. The more the media mocked him, the more his influence soared.

Did his use of social media end when he became the leader of the free world? Nope. Consider just a few of his pronouncements in 2017:

  • The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People! (February 17)
  • Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism! (March 4)
  • Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer! (September 23)

President Trump’s use of social media has moved the world to action in historic ways. We are in the midst of an enormous cultural shift, 140 characters at a time, and from just one man.

Social media platforms offer viable ways to influence our world, but most people use them inappropriately. They take to Facebook spewing their latest rant but fail to achieve positive outcomes. In nearly every case, they only reach a few of their “friends” who think the same way.

Facebook has changed their algorithm recently to minimize political rants that do not engage social interactions that meet their criteria. These changes are intended to increase civil discourse on Facebook.

How can one use social media effectively in this politically-charged environment? Since people have passionate views on a range of issues, what are some suggestions for communicating those views in respectful ways?  

A recent article, What Can and Can’t You Do with Political Advertising on Facebook?, may provide some solutions for more responsible communication on Facebook.

Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Social Media and Cowardice

If you really believe in what you have to say about a person, then why use social media to communicate a message to him or her, especially if you have the person’s home address, email address, and/or telephone number?  Because many people lack the courage to confront people directly, social media becomes vehicles for articulating their messages.  What’s disconcerting about this increasing phenomenon is more people believe that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, and etc. are the proper mediums to solve conflicts.  Why not just pick up a telephone?  One has to wonder, however, if people just enjoy resolving conflicts through public spaces like Facebook and Twitter to attract more attention to themselves.  When you think about it, resolving conflicts at someone’s home, through email, and/or over the telephone is too private for those who desire to find any way possible to get more attention drawn to themselves.

Now, if you have already directly addressed your problems with someone and that person does not try to work with you to solve those problems, then it may be appropriate to express how you feel in general about a problem you have with someone in an indirect manner to keep you from fighting the person.  If you have an established reputation of letting people know in their faces (without any hesitation) how you feel about an issue or problem when one arises, then it may be appropriate to make an indirect comment on Facebook or Twitter about the problem or issue.

Cowardice occurs through social media when a person never has addressed his or her problems with someone directly.

Some people think you’re not smart enough to know when they’re sending subliminal messages to you.  They think they’re getting over on you and affecting you.  However, what they don’t understand is the reason that you’ve not responded to them directly and/or punched them in the mouth is you see them as lightweights, are trying to not destroy their world for their sake and their family’s sake, and/or wish not to cause a major scene.

When people always have to promulgate indirect messages, you can tell they’re struggling with deep insecurities and self-esteem problems.  Why else would they always express themselves through indirect messages?

In the time you invested in composing an indirect message, you could have already communicated a direct message by picking up a telephone?  Why waste time?  Go ahead and be honest—it’s not really about the indirect message you’re attempting to send to someone, but it’s more about you needing to deal with things you’re stowing on the inside of you that need to be eliminated.

You have to be careful about communicating indirect messages to someone through social media because that person could respond with a direct message to you that could surely shake up your world forever.

For every move there is a counter.

Don’t let your weak indirect messages end up causing you a lifetime of misery.  You have to resolve how much you’re willing to lose when you publish tweets, statuses, and posts.

Don’t be a coward—say what you have to say to someone directly to him or her!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison