Exactly two weeks ago, the world saw the inauguration of a billionaire reality show star as the 45th President of the United States of America. I’m putting that as lightly as possible.
There used to be a time when Facebook was reserved to merely keep up with random updates from high school friends we haven’t spoken to in years, or when Twitter was used to announce insignificant details about our daily lives. There used to be a time when I would browse through my Facebook feed, scrolling over countless posts promising to donate X dollars for every share received. For one, there was never any proof that any shares received directly translated into money donated.
While many traditional media outlets have their own biases when it comes to politics, social media sites like Twitter are giving anyone and everyone an easy platform to dispel their beliefs onto the general public. Throughout the election, Donald Trump’s tweets played not only a huge role in gaining him public endorsements but also provided a lot of late night fodder for television. It was mildly funny, not too serious, easy to joke about.
But now, the times have changed and the situation is much direr.
Less than a week after the inauguration, the Trump administration effectively ordered employees of four major agencies (EPA, Dept. of the Interior, Dept. of Agriculture, and Dept. of Health and Human Services) from releasing information to the public — information such as news releases, official website content, blog entries, etc. After all, it’s no surprise that Trump has a very different understanding when it comes to the importance of prioritizing climate change — in that, there is no priority for climate change.
Obviously, this didn’t go over well for the scientific community public, or for the employees from the aforementioned agencies. And thus, the real power of social media was realized.
Within hours, rogue accounts of many major federal agencies popped up on Twitter, set up by employees unimpressed by the gag order. From @RogueNASA to @AltNatParkSer, current and former government employees are taking a stand on social media. There’s even a @RoguePOTUSStaff account.
While many seem content to argue about the authenticity of these rogue accounts, I’m seeing a wildly different trend: social media is now being used as a key medium of communication between individuals, affording a voice to those who have been silenced.
So where does this leave us with social media?
The increase in rogue accounts on Twitter have shown the general public, who is never really privy to the inside ongoings of any governmental agencies, that there is dissent amongst the ranks. For the first time, the average Twitter user has reason to believe that there are government employees who are so unhappy with the current administration that they are willing to risk their livelihoods just to provide them with real facts (you know, as opposed to “alternative facts”).
Social media is now being used as a key medium of communication between individuals, affording a voice to those who have been silenced.
The power of social media to create social change is no longer questionable; once upon a time, digital strategists used optimize social media use primarily for content distribution or digital advertising efforts while the average person used it to keep up with their favorite celebrities or keep in touch with friends.
However, in today’s world, social media provides us with a glimpse into the social reality of the world around us. In providing some modicum of anonymity, social media has undoubtedly provided its users the ability to create a social change in the world.
What about the rest of us?
Well, here’s the thing. There are two types of social media users out there, just as there are two types of news consumerists; those who are able to read a variety of different perspectives to gather all the necessary information, and those who simply believe anything being said by their preferred media outlets.
While it is important to be able to distinguish between “real” rogue social media accounts and “fake” rogue accounts, it is just as critical to stay informed.
Many Americans are no longer living a carefree, protected life. Healthcare plans are being challenged, legally obtained visas and documentation are being revoked, and with every new executive order signed, there is a new minority group being discriminated against.
As with everything else, social media is a powerful tool in the hands of those who know how to use it. There’s a reason that every major media publication uses it for content dissemination, why celebrities are more likely to tweet their opinions for a cause than to rely on interviews, why government employees are turning to tweeting and retweeting important information. It’s simply the best way to reach a wide audience and garner support for your thoughts and opinions.
With that in mind, let me say this: as the general public, we no longer have the luxury of ignoring the social revolution happening right now. It’s time to consume social media on a daily basis if only to keep up with what may really be happening behind-the-scenes so we don’t get blindsided by actions taken by the Trump administration.
There is no doubt that American politics plays a significant role on a global scale so even if you don’t live in America, stay informed and take action.
Even if it’s just a simple retweet or the use of a hashtag — it’s more powerful than you think.