Well, Trump’s people would tell you, he has the effervescence of Donald Trump! When Trump’s Twitter account was revoked in January, he had almost 90 million followers. Surely, some of those will follow him to a new social media site, but even millions following one guy won’t be enough to make the site viable. If you want to follow one guy, signing up for his email service is enough. But people open social media accounts to reach whole, expanding networks of people with varied interests. A thriving social media site allows you to itch all the niches of your personality. You might come for politics but also be looking for other people who share your interest in wine or movies or macramé or the Cistercians. A social media site based primarily on an allegiance to the monoculture represented by Trump and his political positions would soon become pretty boring for even the dead-endingest of Trump dead-enders. If too identified with Trump, the new platform would become an anti-social media site and repulse people. If not identified enough with Trump, the new platform would cease to have any reason to exist. So, why bother?
One of the reasons Trump’s social media presence became essential reading was that as president his every utterance and burp made news. If he tweeted a promise to incinerate some foreign foe, everybody wanted to be there to hear it firsthand, especially liberals who despised and feared him. But reduced now to a geriatric golf cheat whose only true power comes from political fundraising and supporting candidates who will primary his Republican enemies, Trump’s clipped messages have lost their former valency and there’s nothing he can do, short of regaining the presidency, to win his old network back. Trump’s political potency depends on convening an audience of not just Trumpies but other conservatives and a good number of liberals who feel a need to monitor him. You can’t own the libs if the libs aren’t listening.
A smarter play for Trump would be to find a social media host that he could devour parasitically the way he did the Republican Party. Both Gab and Parler would be excellent choices for Trump. In fact, he already seems to have taken a run at Parler, according to a February story in BuzzFeed, which reported that the Trump Organization and social media upstart Parler had negotiated giving Trump a 40-percent interest in the company if he made it his primary social network. This would work to Trump’s satisfaction because it would cost him nothing—he loves using other people’s capital in his businesses—and it reunites him with Rebekah Mercer, who co-founded Parler and whose family supported his campaigns. But the limitations of starting his own site are only mirrored at Parler. He could bring in more of his supporters and curious looky-loos, but that would still not make for the variety needed to establish a vibrant social media network. Another downside is that Parler has only a reported 15 million users compared with Twitter’s 187 million, and its smartphone app has been banned by both Apple’s app store and Google Play for not moderating messages promoting violence, limiting its usability.
Perhaps the greatest limitation to a Trump-led social media entity is Trump’s narcissistic personality. Would he be willing for his social media site to grow into a space that might threaten his propagandistic ambitions? It seems illogical. For as long as we’ve observed Trump, we’ve known that he looks inward only and has no skill at internalizing other people’s personalities, ideas or motivations. We can only laugh at a two-dimensional man who hopes to become a mogul in the three-dimensional world of social media. He’d be better off reentering the steak business.
I like my Trump well done and with ketchup. Send Trump recipes to [email protected]. My email alerts love McDonald’s. My Twitter feed has a button on its desk that when pressed summons a waiter with a Diet Coke. My RSS feed likes its meat extra raw.