In their article, “To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter” Alice Marwick and Danah Boyd explain the ways that users anticipate online social interaction in order to perform celebrity on Twitter. Marwick and Boyd explain that “Like other public genres of social media, Twitter requires celebrity practitioners to negotiate a complicated social environment where fans, famous people, and intermediaries such as gossip columnists co-exist.” This means that a celebrity Twitter user must appeal to a wide array of followers with different intentions and in different contexts. Scrolling through Trump’s Twitter feed, it almost seems as though he has bypassed this idea and streamlined the process by making his tweets universally eye-catching. A fan, reporter, and really any other type of follower could be interested in his tweets because they always have, at the bare minimum, an entertainment factor. He’s not exactly the type of user you retweet because of his educational and inspirational messages (unless you’re a die-hard fan). You retweet him because you’re laughing at him, not with him. As Marwick and Boyd state: “determining whether readers are watching an ‘authentic’ individual or a performed ‘celebrity’ persona is not entirely the point; it is the uncertainty that creates pleasure for the celebrity-watcher on Twitter.” Part of the reason that Trump’s Twitter page is so interesting is that people are unsure if he’s being controversial on purpose and for attention or if he’s genuinely detached from reality.
Marwick and Boyd also explain the complex nature of performing on Twitter in their other article, “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, And The Imagined Audience.” They state that “for Twitter users trying to build audience, personal authenticity and audience expectations must be balanced. To appeal to broad audiences, some popular Twitter users maintained that they had to continually monitor and meet the expectations of their followers.” This idea applies to Trump because it seems that people go to his Twitter page expecting to be shocked or baffled. He certainly doesn’t waste any time sugar coating his strong opinions. His tweets provide some users with their daily dose of controversy and because of this; Trump has found a solid audience and established himself securely in the social media sphere.
At times, Trump definitely comes off as a troll. I can only assume that he goes out of his way to start Twitter feuds for attention or media attention. He’s gotten into countless arguments over topics such as Modern Family to Jon Stewart. At one point, Trump even landed in hot water because he made an unsurprisingly insensitive tweet about sexual assault in the military.
In the article, “LOLing at Tragedy: Facebook Trolls, Memorial Pages and Resistance to Grief Online”, Whitney Phillips explains the internet phenomenon of individuals going out of their way to be insensitive and contentious online. Phillips states that “accidental politics is a common byproduct of trolling, even when trolls deliberately eschew any direct or deliberate agenda.” Even if Trump has no political motivation behind his tweets, by constantly starting feuds, his messages become inherently political because potentially they divide those who follow him. As Phillips explains, whatever the intent is behind a troll, they always grab attention from online users. It’s much easier to become popular on social media because you’re controversial instead of becoming popular because you provide updates that are thoughtful and have substance. I think that Marwick, Boyd, and Phillips would all agree that Trump is taking the easy way out.