Trump’s Twitter Puts the “I” in “Team”

If Donald Trump’s Twitter account were a character from Greek mythology, it would be Narcissus.

Actually, that’s not accurate—Narcissus died from staring at his own reflection for too long. Trump, however, just grows in popularity.

In addition to liking himself a lot, Trump is angry.

The Story

An NPR story on August 18 examined some research into the language that Trump uses on Twitter. And the results aren’t flattering—unless you’re a narcissist.

Trump's Twitter, Narcissus

Donald Trump, seen here in a portrait from the late 16th century.

Northeastern University professor David Lazer and a few colleagues analyzed Trump’s Twitter account. They found that Trump uses the words “I” and “me” in his tweets more than other candidates did.

This self-referential language might be expected from a pop star or a diva. But a politician?

Well, yes. As we know by now, Trump the politician is only the latest twist on Trump the celebrity, Trump the publicity hound, and Trump the provocateur.

In Trump’s defense—argh! I can’t believe I just wrote that—many people running for public office have no shortage of self-confidence.

But the language that Trump uses rarely reveals humility, respect, or cooperation. Word such as “we” and “us” don’t seem to roll off his forked tongue as easily.

Trump’s Twitter: Two Devices, Two Personas

Another researcher by the name of Dave Robinson has discovered that Trump’s Twitter is actually a combination of two personas. One is Trump himself—that is, Trump is doing the actual tweeting. These tweets come from an Android device.

Trump’s Twitter account is a showcase for anger. The candidate’s tweets contain 40% more angry words than his staffers’ tweets.

But the other tweets, also using the handle @realDonaldTrump, come from his campaign staffers. Robinson says these tweets tend to come from iPhones.

Of course, the tone in the staffers’ tweets is more measured. In fact, when Trump does the typing himself, his tweets contain 40% more angry words than his staffers’ tweets.

Unfortunately, though, the NPR story doesn’t give examples of such “angry” language. But I was able to find a few tweets that fit the bill.

There’s this one:


And this one:


And also this one:


And one more just because I’m having trouble stopping myself:

Final Note

By now it’s probably clear that I’m not a fan of Trump’s Twitter language. And I also don’t like what he says about speaking Spanish in the U.S.

Language can motivate people. In addition, it can persuade or convince. And we can use words to highlight problems and propose solutions.

But Trump’s tweets show another way to use language: to belittle, fabricate, and mock. Most of all, though, Trump’s Twitter is a mirror. (A mirror with a megaphone attached might be a better metaphor.)

It lets a self-absorbed, angry, know-nothing “politician” talk about himself—a lot.