To Each Presidential Election Its Social Network

What lesson can we take from the hundreds of teenagers who spread the word about snapping up the free tickets for Donald Trump’s most recent rally? Maybe this: those who live by Twitter, die by TikTok, according to our columnist.

Sure, it’s one of those Biblical phrases that are right for any situation: Those who live by the sword, die by the sword. Looking at all the rows of empty seats for Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa a few days ago, I thought something like this: Those who live by Twitter, die by TikTok.

TikTok, predominantly a video-sharing platform, has only existed for four years. Recently, America’s youth used the young social network to spread the idea of bulk ordering tickets for the rally and then not showing up. It worked like a charm, hence the awkward emptiness of the president’s rally, both in terms of substance and as a spectacle.

TikTok, and this adds to the irony of the situation, is used a lot by young people, and this year there will be more of them than ever to vote. On the platform you’ll find fans, often not from America, of Korean pop music, popularly known as K-pop. TikTok’s origins are mainly in China; the country Trump has been waging a merciless verbal and economic war against for months. I would not be surprised if there was a link there.

The Cesspool of Short but Not So Sweet Thoughts

It’s what is dizzyingly apparent with every recent American presidential elections. Each has seen a focus on a different social network. For Obama, it was connections via Facebook. A frenzied stream of tweets from the Trump presidency of the last four years has resembled a verbal onslaught of aggressive punchlines.

Has it all tarnished Twitter’s image? I think so. Because at the end of the day it gives the impression that on the platform, we can speak nonstop about anything we please. The social network’s leaders have understood this and that’s why they suddenly began applying warning labels to the tumult coming from the president’s account. But it’s too late; the damage has been done. Like Facebook has come to be generally considered an older person’s thing, Twitter is soon to be overrun by the sense that it’s a cesspool of short but not-so-sweet thoughts.

He’s No Longer on the Right Social Media

The reason Trump has lost, why he can’t win this battle: he’s no longer on the right social media, and he can’t change horses midstream like he’s in a Western. I know this might trigger thousands of political analysts to descend on me, saying in one voice that there’s everything left to play for. Obviously. They may say Trump has more than one trick up his sleeve, a strong electoral base that we greatly underestimated four years ago and that it is stupid to come to any conclusions about the election when there are five months of the campaign to go.

Yes, but maybe no: TikTok is about to knock Trump out, to make more noise than him. So, you and I are going to have to start listening to K-pop. It has been hugely successful in Asia for many years, but now also in France and in the United States. Globalized music is also political, which is why I admire Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democrat elected to the House of Representatives, because she represents both the strength of youth and a type of feminism and because she knows better than most the dynamism brought about by a mixture of cultures. After Tulsa, she wrote “KPop allies, we see and appreciate your contributions in the fight for justice too.”

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