11/15/2016

These are interesting times, for the media

The day it was announced that Donald Trump had triumphed over Hillary Clinton, a lesson went almost unnoticed. In this part of the world.

Somewhere else, somebody might have picked it up but for most of my friends -- expressing themselves on the social media -- this lesson was not really noted. Nobody, at least from the people I know, made a comment on it.

All that people were being bothered with was how much a Nigerian televangelist lied in his prediction, how much they had been right all along that Trump would pull a surprise, how much the world was slowly growing cold.

Yet for people like me who like the media, I decided to observe something: the shifting trends in the power and influence of the media.

It is undeniable that Trump was a least favourite of the traditional media. Apparently, while his contender got a ringing 200 endorsements from the traditional media, Trump had only gotten 20 from not-so-influential media.

It would have had been a last nail on Trump's political coffin. Yet as we all know, it never was.

It is a situation that should prompt those who like the media, like me, to ask why.

The answer eventually is not far: social media.

Trump did not only build his campaign on controversy, he also built it on the Social Media.

One day, in my sojourns on the cyberspace, I decided to visit the Facebook pages of the two rival candidates. I started with the number of people who liked the pages. While Trump's numbers were soaring on the social media, Hillary's were abysmal -- only relaxing in the comfort of being better than Trump's media endorsements.

It was not really an anomaly. Trump's Facebook page looked lively, Hillary's...well...not really dead...but not inspiring either. There was engagement on Trump's page, active and brutal engagement. There was a kind of civil nuanced engagement on the one for Hillary.

On Trump's page, you would not comment negatively and get away with it. On Hillary's, the first comments that welcomed you -- floating above all the others owing to their being liked by a majority -- were crucifying Hillary. And this was not about censorship on Trump's page. It was about having a people who believed in his course and knew how to make use of the modern space for engagement: the social media.

Trump himself was the god of Twitter, fueling jokes that were he to win -- which most of the jokers really felt was impossible -- he would be throwing orders and leading from Twitter. And there was hardly a dull moment in his Tweets. It was either controversy or...another controversy. But never dull. He must have known that controversy sells. It sold for him.

It is interesting really, if one looks at it closely. How the social media has started giving power to people and eventually relegating the traditional media to a footnote of relevance.