It has been a little over a month since Joe Biden was inaugurated. After taking office, Mr. Biden stopped tweeting under his personal account (@JoeBiden) and began tweeting under the official Whitehouse “potus” account (@potus). So one month into Biden’s presidency, how does Biden’s Twitter engagement compare to Trump’s engagement? It is not even close. Whereas Trump’s twitter account, while it was alive and not suspended, was like a Zoo, Biden’s account by comparison is like entering a mausoleum in terms of being much more subdued and quiet, from both sides.
By ‘peak Covid’ in April-May 2020, Trump tweeted up to 100 times a day, and his tweets typically garnered tens of thousands of comments and between two to five-hundred-thousand likes. The intensity of engagement would only accelerate after he was diagnosed with Covid in early October, and then a month later after contesting the U.S. president election results, which would play out in the courts until January, when Trump refused to concede was finally suspended from Twitter for ‘inciting violence’ and failing to sufficiently disavow the Capitol Hill riots to the left’s satisfaction.
Within moments of Trump posting a tweet, first the bots–which are programed to instantly reply to Trump’s tweets, typically to push quote mugs, merchandise, and the like–would appear, and then minutes later without fail, would come the ‘obsessives’ of the anti-Trump #resistance side to post their tired, repetitive screeds regardless of the context of whatever Trump said, and then, finally, followed by some Trump supporters, who were always outnumbered. About 80% of the comments by my estimation were anti-Trump. After an hour, typically there would be at least a couple dozen replies with thousands of likes and hundreds of comments each, with an abundance of invective hurled by both sides, all within the comment section of said tweet, making Trump’s twitter account a microcosm of Twitter itself and a social network within a social network. Trump’s Twitter account had enough followers and enough engagement to be a social network in and of itself.
By comparison, a Biden tweet may only get tens of thousands of likes and maybe only a couple thousand comments. Part of this difference may be due to Biden not tweeting under his personal account, so he loses those followers, but the difference is still stark. Excluding his inauguration swearing-in ceremony and speech, I think Biden’s most favorited tweet only got half a million likes, whereas Trump’s tweets during Covid and during the 2020 election and subsequent court battles, got half a million likes each, many times a day.
Furthermore, the tone of discourse is much more civil, on either side. There are some cries of ‘rigged election’ from Trump supporters and some gloating by Biden voters, but the intensity of the culture war has declined from a wildfire to now more of a simmer. There are no more cartoons and memes of ‘Trump for jail’ or ‘Hillary for prison’. I think this is a sign of progress in terms of the attenuation of the culture wars that the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ , at least to the extent that I have observed on Twitter, are not intoning to have their respective political opponents imprisoned. There are no more cartoons, or at least far fewer than under Trump, likening Trump and his supporters to Nazis or Klansmen, which I think is a welcome change.
I think the difference can be explained by the observation that Biden does not evoke the sort of inimical loathing from the right, that Trump evoked from the left. For Trump supporters, opinions and perceptions of Biden range from, on one extreme, Biden being a coconspirator in a global network of corruption, to, on the other extreme, a senile and harmless old man whose strings are pulled by Kamala and his handlers, but for the left, Trump was not just corrupt, but an existential threat, whose very existence was an assault to democracy and even humanity itself (such as fears of Trump starting a nuclear war). Second, no one is really making money off the Biden presidency in the way way that conservatives and liberals’ alike grifted off Trump, whether it was to sell books, podcast subscriptions, merchandise, and so on. Biden is so diffident compared to Trump, that the necessary emotional triggers needed to induce someone to buy something or subscribe, are largely absent.
For those worried about or predicting civil unrest and America being torn apart, by my observation I think both sides have cooled their rhetoric and vitriol considerably over the past 2 months since the Capitol Hill riots, which is an important and underreported development that bodes well for national cohesion. America at the turn of the New Year seemed on the brink of balkanization, but for now has been pulled back from the brink of its self-destruction.