This is my first blog post since Trump took office and, well–what a ride it’s been, huh? It’s difficult to discuss politics without ruffling feathers, so I’ll “stay in my lane” and focus on the civility aspect instead.
Yesterday’s firing of communications director Anthony Scaramucci capped a very tumultuous 10 days in which manners, decorum, and standard business protocol were tipped on their head. Scaramucci’s quotes to CNN were profane, disrespectful, and a far cry from what one might expect of a business professional, let alone someone representing the White House.
The public was still reeling from Scaramucci’s comments when Trump announced, over Twitter no less, that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus would be replaced by John Kelly. I trust (or at least sincerely hope) that Priebus didn’t learn of his departure on social media, but one thing’s for sure: Each and every day we inch closer to turning into a reality show full of scandals and surprise twists.
Maybe this is just a sign of the times. Obama used social media during his time as president, but not to the extent that Trump does. His tweets are unedited, bombastic, and, often, at odds with what his press team is telling the media. Some people appreciate Trump’s efforts to speak directly to the public and bypass “fake news.” As a civility expert, I worry that he’s setting a poor example for how people, particularly elected officials, conduct their communication. It feels like we are sacrificing civility for convenience and “likes.”
Social media can be a useful tool for a politician, but it should be used wisely. Statements should inform, not inflame. London mayor Sadiq Khan, for instance, frequently posts statements on Facebook, and it’s an effective way to reach citizens. But there’s already so much noise on Twitter, where bots and trolls roam free, pick fights, and spread hateful messages. Seeing our elected officials add to that noise is undignified.