Even before taking office in January 2017, then President-Elect Donald Trump faced criticism for his “over use” of Twitter. During his nearly four years in office, the President has only continued to use the social media platform as a broadcast tool, which at time has resulted in him being called out for spreading misinformation and even mistruths.
However, President Trump isn’t the only politician who perhaps has relied a bit too much on Twitter. Today nearly every elected official spends some time tweeting, but in many cases it has only served to highlight how deep the divide is politically in the United States.
Just this week Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) found herself in two separate spats after posting on the micro-blogging platform. This began after she called out her Republican colleagues from her @AOC account, tweeting, “The thing that these conservative Senators don’t seem to understand is that I’ve actually had a physically difficult working-class job without good healthcare most of my adult life. I bring that work ethic to Congress & to my community. They sit around on leather chairs all day.”
She then added, “Republicans like to make fun of the fact that I used to be a waitress, but we all know if they ever had to do a double they’d be the ones found crying in the walk-in fridge halfway through their first shift bc someone yelled at them for bringing seltzer when they wanted sparkling”
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Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s critics responded – and it included those who did in fact work similar jobs in their careers.
Kasey Lovett (@lovett_kasey), press secretary for HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, posted, “This is wrong. I was a waitress for 5+ years throughout high school and college. I am a Republican and I cried in walk-in fridges just like you. The difference between us? I don’t expect the gvt to provide for me. I make my own $ and provide for myself.”
The New York Congresswoman also found herself in a tiff with Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), after another tweeted, ” Black-owned small businesses were widely shut out from accessing PPP loans, yet right-wing disinfo org PV took half a million in public money while decrying direct federal assistance as ‘radical socialism.’ Republicanism in a nutshell.”
Sen. Rubio (@marcorubio) responded to that tweet, “Working together R’s & D’s helped save the jobs of 55 million Americans through PPP
Work more, tweet less & one day you too can make a difference”
Of course a firestorm practically erupted with followers of the politicians responding – and the support or criticism seemed to follow party lines, and practically ensured that a time of healing likely isn’t in the cards. While it isn’t new to the modern day for politicians to have such open contempt and disdain for their colleagues across the aisle, it seems that technology has made it all the easier for the venom to come out.
“Technology has had an enormous impact on how people operate,” said technology industry analyst Josh Crandall of Netpop Research.
“In the corporate world, technology has been used to flatten the organizational structure and accelerate how things get done,” added Crandall. “Email and other cloud technologies like Office 365 and Google Workspace have enabled the ability for any employee to express their opinions and present ideas across an organization.”
In the corporate world and employee could distribute that message throughout the company no matter how good or bad the idea may be.
“Senior staff is no longer protected by the gate-keepers of middle management,” explained Crandall. “While flattening the organization may speed up the process of innovation, technology has also made it much easier for younger employees to circumvent their managers and share what’s on their mind. This newfound power has disrupted the way that ideas are edited, polished and frequently improved before wider distribution, and often results in unnecessary friction and distraction.”
Now in a very similar way, social media – notably Twitter – have allowed everyone, including politicians and other influencers to communicate with their audiences. And that may not be for the best.
“Politicians have the ability to tweet whatever is on their mind at any time of the day or night,” said Crandall. “No longer are they required to work with communications directors to edit a position, massage a message or set up press interviews. Politicians and influencers have a direct connection and the connection is direct, immediate and powerful.”
Widening The Divide
Given the recent posts by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and the response, it is clear that so much direct interaction in a public space isn’t helping matters.
“While social media isn’t entirely to blame for the heightened state of our political divisions, it has definitely made things worse than they would have been in its absence,” warned Greg Sterling, vice president of marketing insights at Uberall.
“It’s much easier to toss out invective in a tweet than over the phone, in print or in person,” Sterling added. “Social media shouldn’t be scapegoated but we should also recognize the disruptive and destructive role it has played in our national political discourse, if we can still call it that.”
It is unlikely that politicians will tune of Twitter anytime soon however.
“Unfortunately, politicians are people too and they are driven by insecurities, ego and fear just like the rest of us,” Crandall remarketed.
“Without the traditional safety net of handlers who are more detached from the issues to help edit and frame a position statement before going public, politicians today are tweeting and sharing what is on their minds immediately,” he added. “The outcome is often emotionally-charged, personal attacks on the opposition that tend to inflame the reaction from both sides of an issue that is being debated online. This only leads to more friction and unease between politicians and negatively impacts their ability to work in a collaborative way to serve the people and fix our nation’s problems.”