The 2016 election was characterized by the involvement of social media more so than any of its predecessors. Donald Trump delivered memorable, if crude, one-liners on Twitter, and his supporters followed suit. Hailing from places like 4chan, internet crusaders for Trump and the alt-right have made their presence known over the past few months. And more recently, Facebook has been under fire for the spread of fake news. But for all Trump’s bluster and braggadocio, for all his supporters’ ferocity, it seems that the internet stands relatively united against them — and they aren’t too happy about that.
There are, in fact, very few online groups that draw the ire of the internet as much as Trump supporters. Even Melania Trump’s pledge earlier this month to use her influence as first lady to combat cyberbullying — ironic in and of itself, given the behavior of her husband on the campaign trail — doesn’t seem to have placated the indignation of the public. The Trump campaign may have inspired the votes necessary to carry the Electoral College, but much of the internet isn’t having any of it.
People’s responses have not been passive. Hunter Walker, national correspondent for Yahoo! News, tweeted out a screenshot of a press release about alleged cyberbullying afflicting Trump supporters. According to the brief, Gary Pollakusky was unfriended by over one hundred of his online friends because he posted a picture of him and his wife standing in front of a Trump-Pence backdrop.
Present here again is the irony around these claims of cyberbullying, since it’s Trump supporters themselves who are responsible for some of the more heinous online attacks in these past weeks. They are the ones sending out tweets like this one, directed at Jewish actress and Hillary Clinton supporter Emmy Rossum:
But also present in Walker’s tweet is an observation about the post-election attitude of the internet. Whether or not one accepts the complaints of Trump supporters like Pollakusky, it’s difficult to deny the raw truth of what they’re saying. The press release alleges that Trump supporters on Long Island, and across the nation, are being “attacked and unfriended” on sites like Facebook. This is actually happening.
Back in October 2014, Pew Research Center released a study about “Political Polarization and Media Habits.” The study examined how liberals and conservatives interact with others on social media. According to the findings, individuals who identify as “consistently liberal” are “more likely than those in other ideological groups to block or ‘defriend’ someone on a social network — as well as to end a personal friendship — because of politics.” This indicates an inability, on the part of liberals, to reconcile another person’s political views with their own. Instead, they’re choosing to cut contact with that person altogether.
Given the high degree of emotional investment that many people had in the election’s outcome, it’s understandable that these trends would become especially prevalent in the days immediately after it took place. As the study notes, liberals’ willingness to cut somebody out of their lives over politics even extends into the real world, meaning that actual friendships may have been ended over the election.
Justified or not, the treatment about which Trump supporters are complaining is real. And with all the debate and controversy that continues to plague Trump’s transition process, it’s likely that this behavior will continue into the near future.