Twitter forces its way into the political funding game
By Sarah Chekfa
This past September, Twitter took a decisive step towards politicizing its platform, introducing a function that allows users to directly donate money to candidates’ political campaigns with a solitary tweet. Before I begin criticizing Twitter for its subliminal destruction of the rationalistic foundations of our political donation system, surely you’re wondering—how does this new-fangled technological Twitterian trippiness operate?
Well, it’s pretty simple, as far as politics go. A campaign signs up for a Square Cash account and is assigned a distinct “cashtag,” which can then be shared on Twitter. A donate button will appear on the campaign’s Twitter account and, through that, users will be able to donate with a debit card, preserving their information forever in the digital cosmos to allow for future simple (near-mindless!) one-click donations.
Cringingly capitalistic connotations of the phrase “cashtag” aside, at first glance, this modernization seems like an acutely obvious move for a platform like Twitter. Twitter has succeeded Facebook as ruler of the realm of existential status updates, providing us with notifications ranging from irrelevant blurbs about that avocado turkey panini your ex had for lunch, to headstrong pronouncements of resounding political statements that you don’t necessarily agree with. So this update comes to us as nearly endearing, an almost cute way to meld two seemingly opposite spheres of operation—technology and politics—into one unified product of Teamwork. It’s beautifully intended to further democratize our already very democratic political system by “making it easier for Twitter users to actively support candidates and causes.”
While its intention was clearly well-meaning, this move by Twitter has been subjected to the inevitable law of unintended consequences. Twitter likely never meant to spark a conversation about the arguably deteriorating nature of our political support when it released this revamp, but it has. And we must take this opportunity for what it has become: a wake-up call on the nature of our political personas.
“Implicit in this statement is the idea that it’s okay—no, that it’s preferable even—to make financial decisions when we are at our most excited, most angry, most emotional.”
This summer, Calvin Harris asked us all how deep our love was. Perhaps we can revise his noteworthy query for the fall season: how strong is our support? Let’s be dangerously real here—it is unbelievably easy to open up a new tab, head to a candidate’s website, and donate to them directly from there. Yes, it might not necessarily be as convenient as sending a tweet, and it might take away five more precious minutes of your time on Earth, but it’s worth it. Right? Because this is a candidate you care about, genuinely—someone you desperately want to see emerge victorious in the Game of Thrones-esque battle that is the American political campaign. Surely you could spare them these five minutes, in addition to your monetary support.
The internet has already made the act of political donation accessible to the civic newbie: we can donate with the literal click of a button. In this sense, the added step of accessing the candidate’s website directly is like a test of loyalty, signaling a determined commitment to the cause. It could even be perceived as an obstacle between us and unwise political spending. In seemingly direct opposition to this idea, a Twitter representative actually went so far as to say that this modernization is the perfect tool “to allow people who are feeling passionate at [an] exact moment in time to donate right then and there.” Implicit in this statement is the idea that it’s okay—no, that it’s preferable even—to make financial decisions when we are at our most excited, most angry, most emotional.
I’m not suggesting that we should let platitudes guide our journey through life, but isn’t it a common truth that we shouldn’t act on our impulses when we’re feeling most passionate? This kind of visceral reaction is what demagogues like Donald Trump (let’s save him for another time) aim to incite—this is what they manipulate in their despotic clambering for political leadership. Rational thought sets emotion aside from fact, and allows us to deal with the situation in a steady, clearheaded manner. Political donation should begin and end in evidence-based, near-scientific, meditated thought processes—and the dangerous ease of donation through Twitter is a threat to logic-based political support. The flames of sensation have no place in the political realm, no matter how desperately certain political figures might try to push you into their embers.
So slowly retreat from the embers—no, flee from them! Yes, I admit: these heuristic flames can be tantalizing in their fervent, gilded incomplexity—it would be so easy to just fall in, submit to their eager simplicity—but I challenge you to defy that Freudian death drive. Freud won’t be disappointed. He’s dead. But another death is at stake here—that of the sincerity of your political support. Will you let it perish? Or will you transcend this possibility, and reclaim your rightful political integrity?
Perhaps it’s better we assume the temperament of a reasoned owl when considering political donation, instead of that of a sing-songy, naïve, lightheaded Twitter bird.