This was the first presidential election in which social media played a dominant role. Even back in 2008, social media was tinier, less fully formed than it is now. Those Trump tweets no doubt shaped his candidacy and how opponents responded, and even how campaign dollars were spent, to the detriment of television, which got a little lost in the new technology this time around.
One week of the Trump presidency constitutes only a few pages, not even a chapter, of his time in the job. But in that short time, the presence of social media protest from within the government has become a story all its own.
You could have never guessed, on Jan. 19, 2017, that by dinnertime on Jan. 20, 2017, the National Park Service would be in the White House’s cross-hairs. That's due to the controversy created by National Park Service retweets of photos from Trump’s inauguration crowd compared to President Obama’s eight years before.
Another retweet noted the topics scrubbed from the Whitehouse.gov Website on Trump’s very first day, including civil rights, climate change and healthcare. The new Trump administration shut down the site, then later resumed it with a caveat against talking about policy.
Not too long after, Alt-National Park Service sites debuted on social media--Facebook, Twitter and Instagram among them. When users friend the Facebook page, they’re told, “Thanks for becoming a part of [the] resistance against Donald Trump.”
A handful of National Park Service sites--including the best known ones like Yellowstone and Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the relatively obscure Cuyahoga Valley National Park near Cleveland-- take credit for the non-affiliated site, but as NPR reported, it’s not clear who is actually running it-employees or just friends and supporters.
As NPR also reports, it’s not just the park and forest services that are striking out on their own. It provides a list of 80 rogue Twitter sites, including ones for alt-Customs, Justice Department, Veterans Affairs, Labor, Centers for Disease Control, Commerce and as they say at K-Tel, many, many more. (Most, however seem to be environment-based.)
On Instagram, a graphic of a bear wearing a National Park Service hat contains the message “Smokey Says Resist.” But Sunday, Instagram’s alt masters were urging people to ignore that graphic, fearful the federal government could make some legal noise.
Weirdly, for a while, visitors to the alt-Park Service site were not allowed to “like” it. According to a Website called U.S. Uncut, visitors received a message reading, “If you think you’re seeing this by mistake, please let us know.”
That snafu has been cleared now, and the alt page is going full blast again. Facebook says it has had nearly 2 million page follows since it went up on Jan. 24. That’s from zero. The messages left on Facebook and Instagram are defiant.
It’s those stats, if they are repeated to some degree by the other alt-sites out there, and the ones the may come, that could end up being a lot more powerful than any politician’s tweets have been.