It’s easy for those of us who live in the Twitter bubble to forget that Twitter is just not that terribly popular in the United States. It’s hard to pin down what percentage of the population uses it with any regularity, but as far as I can tell it’s not much more than 10% of the population. Facebook, by way of comparison, is closer to 60%, which amounts to the vast majority of the adult population.
Ask someone who is not at all familiar with Twitter about Twitter and they’re likely to scoff and tell you they can’t be bothered with learning what it is exactly or how to use it. It might as well be the Snapchats. You’ll immediately realize that they regard Twitter with a distant non-fascination, as some sort of newfangled gimmick—as though it is anything more or less than another means of conveying messages with words and images.
I’ve begun to get the sense that when non-tweeters hear about “Trump’s tweets,” they regard them as something distinct from Trump’s words, Trump’s statements, Trump’s press releases, Trump’s recorded voice admitting to serially sexually assaulting women, etc. In other words, they seem to rank the contents of tweets beneath other forms of communication in terms of how seriously they should be taken.
When someone like John McCain says to reporters “I’m not talking about Trump. I’m not talking about Trump. I’m not talking about Trump,” as he did yesterday, it’s abundantly clear that the frustration he’s giving voice to comes from the constant barrage of questions related to the constant barrage of tweets emanating from Trump’s tiny tweeting fingertips.
It’s impossible to keep up, obviously…but also, I would argue, McCain feels entitled to be dismissive of questions about tweets because he barely knows what tweets are. I find it hard to believe he’d be as cavalier if Trump were communicating by other, more official means.
This phenomenon is also evident in the scolding of liberals who chastise people for reacting to “Trump’s tweets,” as if they’re any less worthy of reaction than his words and actions in other venues.
The bottom line is that I don’t think we help matters when we talk about “Trump’s tweets” instead of just saying “Trump said ‘[insert dangerous, idiotic, and/or offensive words here].'” If they come from Trump’s Twitter account, they are nothing more or less than the words of the President-elect of the United States of America. Trump did not put a nickel into a mechanical bird which then uttered something insane. Trump was not possessed by the spirit of an ancient bird spirit that forced him to say something insane.
Trump simply said something insane…on Twitter.