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by Lucy O'Gilvie

Trump vs social media

For many of us Donald Trump’s rise to power has been as startling as it was subtle. One moment he was an in-joke for America, the ‘guy off the Apprentice’. We laughed about him over the dinner table and mocked his clunky mannerisms. Then, little by little, it began to change.

Trump and his media circus have navigated the elections with panther-like agility and the same quiet ferocity. He has been very clever in manipulating the very medium with which he found wide public favour. However without the prevalence and misuse of social media, he would have had a much harder job in doing so.

Trump vs social media Subscript

Some of the nation’s favourite shows and social accounts are based on ‘real people’ in ‘real situations’ but yet have no consequence for the world as a whole. People have come to see life itself as a show that has no bearing on their lives, but simply a series of events that gain them followers or likes.

Here’s an example; recently there was a tragic murder in Scotland. 15 year old Paige Doherty went missing and was found two days later by a roadside, kick starting the classic media frenzy that is inevitable when a pretty girl is taken too soon. However, the tributes soon took a turn in the form of #PoutforPaige.

This is a Facebook group that provides a forum to remember Paige by taking pouting selfies. The vast majority appear to not have known Paige personally, and many of them have taken these pictures of their babies and young children. The selfies are generally linked by a common title:

‘Poutforpaige, fly high angel

#poutforpaige Shine bright, forever young’

Brody 9 Months Old Pouting For Page ????

This message appears in late March from a concerned individual:

‘I’ve tweeted literally nearly every celebrity I can think of possibly 3/4 times each, asking them to pout for Paige, hopefully soon some will respond… I’ve been on Twitter all day sharing her photo and tagging celebs… I wish I knew the beautiful angel but sadly I never, though it won’t stop me campaigning for justice for her, my heart cries out to her family and friends… fly high miss Doherty, may you be at rest with all the other angels, shine bright like a diamond’

Far from me to suggest how people should mourn. It appears that dotted among the tributes are messages from direct friends and family, and the page is in many ways a way for those to share their thoughts and feelings. Facebook has provided a way of connection and remembrance that must provide an invaluable comfort to the family.

However, the group overwhelmingly comes across as an excuse for strangers to show themselves off. Grief or tragedy has increasingly become a commodity for attention. When an event or scandal occurs the initial thought seems to become ‘this is about me’. This has been true for many of the celebrity deaths of the past couple of years. When David Bowie recently passed away, I saw many statuses along the lines of ‘My favourite artist, RIP’ – for many, they had never mentioned him before or have since.

How does this falseness and separation from reality link to the American Elections? They are both real, but not real. Much as in the same way one is able to justify a selfie as a response to a young girl’s death, so can Trump cause scandal after scandal but still go up in the polls. Many don’t link his candidacy with real life presidency; Trump is simply the ultimate gatherer of ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’. It’s ‘funny’ to vote for him. He plays the game well (most recently coming out in support of Bernie Sanders in a calculated move designed to appeal to the Left) but it is thanks to our increasingly self-obsessed approach to social media that he has gained momentum.

Illustrations by Sonny-Jack Richmond.