With over 54 million followers on Twitter, President Trump has revolutionized the method and mode of communication from the presidential administration to the American people. Whereas the world once relied on news briefings and official statements, updates now come at the second. According to Mashable, President Trump has posted almost 12 tweets per day since the start of his campaign in 2015.
Called an “ever changing mood ring, often full of sound and fury, signifying sound and fury” by David Folkenflik, President Trump’s twitter feed often evokes outrage and alarm as the media and the public attempt to keep up with the unpredictable and rapid flow of news from the White House. The news host and editor of NPR’s On Point analyzed the extreme effectiveness of Trump’s tweets, calling him “a master of his medium of choice.”
The intimacy of these tweets has allowed President Trump to share his uninhibited feelings about nearly every subject, prompting derogatory and aggressive quotes to become the norm. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that Millennials and Generation Z have adopted this mode of uninhibited communication to campaign for change, often against Trump. This phenomenon has established both a novel channel, as well as a dangerous precedent for these rising generations that will remain long after President Trump’s administration ends.
Millennials and Generation Z members are the future. Ranging from 8 to 36 years old, they make up the most diverse and technology-adept generations and in the history of the United States. Further, they are not happy with the state of America. In a poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV, only 33% of Americans between the ages of 15 and 34 approve of Trump.
Dissatisfaction has led to action. In a movement that can be compared only to the turbulent 1960s, these young people are determined to force the change they wish to see, even if many cannot vote. This activism was evident in the aftermath of the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The horrific shooting left 17 students and teachers dead and five students determined to make a change.
As a result, the #NeverAgain movement was formed to lead the quest for stricter gun legislation. Emma Gonzalez and peers successfully led to March 24th March for Our Lives, which CBS estimates drew nearly 200,000 people, mainly youth, to Washington D.C. alone, with sibling marches all over the country and world.
But support for stricter gun legislation is nothing new. When Georgia passed a state law banning handguns in 1837, the United States Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional under the second amendment. So what has allowed these teens to persevere and create the largest gun control movement ever?
The answer lies in extremely aggressive social media tactics. As Jaclyn Corin, an organizer of the March for Our Lives and a Parkland survivor, said for the movement’s Time cover, “People always say ‘get off of your phones,’ but social media is our weapon. Without it, the movement wouldn’t have spread so fast.”
Survivor Sarah Chadwick’s angry and raw response to President Trump’s “prayers and condolences” after the Parkland shooting went viral, garnering over 144,000 retweets before it was eventually taken down. Chadwick addressed the President with profanity, —a method Trump himself has frequently employed.
Echo chambers, platforms where the same opinion is projected continuously without the chance of rebuttal, are commonly attributed to social media. However, social media has transformed into a shouting chamber where angry rebuttals are the standard. President Trump’s aggressive and insulting tweets have set a norm for his adversaries to follow suit.
While political echo chambers are dangerous because of the lack of diversity of opinion they present, “shouting chambers” provide another danger. Without basic respect for another’s opinion, there is no way to learn and understand their opinion. When the default is to discredit, there cannot be unity.
These “shouting chambers” have splintered the nation past the traditional naivety of echo chambers. Anger and confusion abound as constructive political conversation has consequently dwindled. While fury and indignation has proved somewhat effective for teenagers to protest Trump, it is hypocritical to protest the President and his mode of communication while continuing the use the method he has popularized.
The post-Trump era approaches, whether in 2020 or 2024, and many Generation Z and Millennial members will look to mend the damage done by President Trump’s tone. But the loss of effective and constructive political conversation and communication will not be resolved by a change in office. Only after both generations hone their tenor of dialogue will the Trump era of division ever truly conclude.