The U.S. election was quite the spectacle, and swept widely across a variety of media; however, no media had a more infinitesimal impact than Twitter. After all, love him or hate him (because there’s no in-between), Donald Trump sure knows how to use Twitter. Hillary Clinton’s passive Twitter use didn’t hold a candle to Trump’s provocative tweets, which may have played a bigger impact than most people believe in the election results. After all, where Trump essentially redefined the use of the platform itself, Clinton’s campaigners, who did most of her social media posts, played by the pre-existing rules.
The first important factor to consider is the number of followers each candidate has on Twitter. Trump lines up in first place, with 24.1M, and Clinton drags behind with a seemingly meagre 13M. Essentially, that already clinches the results Twitter-wise; after all, Trump’s messages are getting out to 11 million more people than Clinton’s. Also, where Clinton’s messages are uplifting, inspirational, and overwhelmingly positive, Trump’s are aggressive, rude, and borderline socially unacceptable: it appears as if American’s are gunning for someone crudely blunt instead of optimistic to lead their country. Looking back at the election, it’s almost too clear as to who was going to win- as if Twitter knew before we did what the results were going to be.
Where does Twitter stock-up to traditional media? In general, traditional media were used less in this election, because even though print newspapers are still used, it’s much more efficient to post a 140-character or less tweet than it is to write an article, send it to the editor, and have it published with the next day’s edition. After all, by the time it gets to the printer, it’s essentially yesterday’s news. Online newspapers have taken over the news front, and many of these newspapers use Twitter to get their stories out to the public as quickly as possible. Also, where there’s no way to tell exactly how many people drove past the billboard praising Hillary, there’s a physical method of seeing how many people viewed, liked, and retweeted her last inspirational tweet. It’s also nigh impossible to put an aggressive one-liner in a newspaper: if Twitter didn’t exist, Trump would have had to amp up his rhetoric astronomically, and whether or not he’s capable of that is up for debate.
Keep in mind that I’m not here to say that Twitter decided the outcome of the presidential election: I’m here to remind you that social media is playing an increasingly prevalent role in major world events. I know that all of us, especially here in Canada, have strong opinions on the election (I certainly don’t plan on visiting the US in the next four years), but the fact that it hasn’t yet directly impacted us means that we are still able to objectively consider the ways in which the candidates presented themselves on social media and how that affected the outcome of the election. This form of study can then lead to a serious consideration of the effect of social media on society, which I believe would reveal that it isn’t the underdog anymore—it’s hurdling over traditional media to finish the race for efficiency, usefulness, and above all, expression.