In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the American public in roughly 30 speeches held over the radio. Those speeches captivated millions of listeners as they drew comfort in his, what would be dubbed, “fireside chats.”
Roosevelt would talk on topics ranging from plans to deal with unemployment and the effects of the Great Depression, to fighting fascism in Europe.
In 2017, President Donald J. Trump addresses the American public in 140 character tweets, which are sent periodically over Twitter. President Trump would tweet about topics ranging from taunting North Korea’s leader by calling Kim Jong Un “Little Rocket Man” to accusing news sources who disagree with him as, “fake news.” Like FDR, President Trump’s tweets have drawn and captivated millions of readers, but that’s where the comparisons seem to end.
Unlike the current president, Roosevelt’s audience was the American public, while President Trump’s every tweet is under the scrutiny of not only the American public, but on the world’s stage.
Roosevelt used informal, conversational words to address the public’s fears and concerns in order to garner trust and confidence in the United States government via those chats. That goal and tone was conveyed solely through the radio medium, and he did not deviate from the tone.
President Trump’s use of Twitter shows no one goal like FDR had. There is no set persona he tries to portray through that medium.
This is proven as President Trump ranges from a rage filled sports-fan condemning the “Son of a b*tch” NFL players who have the gall to exercise free speech when they kneel for the National Anthem, to announcing legislative reforms without any detailed plans on how to carry out those reforms.
This could be seen when he tweeted a military reform that would ban transgender individuals from serving in the military.
I understand, times change, and the use of social media to gain the attention of today’s digitized populace may be preferable to using the radio. After all, previous presidents used Twitter as a communication medium.
President Trump’s use of Twitter has been critiqued by journalists and Twitter users alike, citing his use as “not presidential.”
In response, President Trump felt the need to defend his use, as he tweeted, “My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again.”
The claim of being “modern day presidential,” can be contested as President Trump’s predecessor, has never used Twitter in such an unfiltered, sporadic way as President Trump has.
Through President Trump’s uncontrolled Twitter use, he runs the risk of worsening America’s public image. Instead of his Twitter page giving off the starch persona of a respectable world leader, it is one of chaos and misinformation.
His Twitter usage has been so problematic that a Twitter employee who was on their last day on the job decided to deactivate the President’s Twitter account. The employee’s actions were celebrated on a wide variety of popular tweets after the fact.
Measures have been taken since then to get his account back up and running, but situations like this would have been inconceivable if done under the Obama administration. Thus proving how the respectability of the presidency of the President has been on the decline, partially due to his Twitter useage.
President Trump’s use of Twitter is nothing comparable to FDR’s Fireside Chats or the use of Twitter by the Presidents before him. There is no one discernable persona, professionalism, or unifying goal presented in his Twitter use. In fact, his Twitter usage hurts President Trump’s image rather than helps it.