President Trump’s compulsion for tweeting has unleashed all sorts of hell. And we’re not just talking about the policies he has introduced with a single click (hello, ban on transgender people from serving in the military) or the trail of unfinished thoughts that have left people awake way past their bedtime (#LongLiveCovfefe.)
We mean the fiery pits also known as Trump’s Twitter mentions. Hordes of hashtag-happy users race to respond to his tweets — be it by condemning his policies, picking fights with #MAGA users, or just yelling into the void that the president must be impeached. Even more bizarrely, our Tweeter-in-Chief has recently demonstrated a penchant for blocking accounts that irk him. This led to an unprecedented lawsuit alleging the First Amendment allows users to say whatever they want and, as a public official, Trump shouldn't bar them from seeing his posts.
It’s easy to see why Trump, famous for his thin-skin, would have a problem with critics who swarm his mentions. But what motivates someone to invest so much time and energy into trolling the president?
For Melissa Wyzan, it’s the catharsis it brings to insult President Trump. She’s by no means a Twitter influencer — her account barely cracks 40 followers. In all the other areas of her life, the 29-year-old tries to be civil. She calls Congress, keeps up with the news, and talks policy with people she disagrees with. But she can’t stop herself from throwing her manners out of the window when she replies to POTUS’ tweets. Her crude insults (“You sphincter of a man.”) come across as even more jarring when you hear Wyzan’s sunny disposition over the phone.
Wyzan will be the first person to admit that trolling Trump makes her feel good, civility be damned. But as the political arena continues to be polarized, we wonder: Is her behavior productive? We decided to ask the troll herself.
When did you start responding to Trump on Twitter?
“I actually didn't really even use Twitter until after this election. I started look at it to get news quickly and see all the outrageous things our politicians are saying. So I started replying directly to Trump maybe two, three months ago.”
Do you reply every time he tweets something, or just to the particularly outrageous posts?
“When I wake up in the morning I check Twitter to see what stupid shit Donald Trump has said. When I see a tweet that really infuriates me, I feel so much frustration, and so much anger, and so much helplessness. I feel like I could either go outside and run a mile, which would probably be more productive. I could go masturbate. I could go punch a wall. Or I could just respond immaturely — say something insulting. And you know what? It's cathartic for me. It makes me feel better."
What are some things you have tweeted at him?
"I'll respond to what he's saying politically, but then add in something like, 'You barely sentient pile of Cheeto dust.' Or, 'You sphincter of a man.' I think I wrote once, 'Your father wouldn't consider you a winner. You'll never live up to Obama's legacy. You'll die an irrelevant disgrace.' I'm not usually a troller. I'm kind of a snob in that when I have a political conversation with someone, I'm super into fact-checking everything I say, [and careful not to] say anything offensive. But there's something about him. You just know that he's so insecure, that every insult he actually sees on Twitter in some way contributes to this feeling of being haunted or not being good enough. Even though I know the chances of him seeing my tweet are one in a million, just knowing that he might is worth it to me."
Are there differences between how you behave on Twitter versus other social media networks?
"Huge differences. When I argue with someone on Facebook, I try to keep it above the belt and policy based. On Reddit, I'm active, but I just comment on articles. Instagram, I don't really ever talk about politics. I feel like when I get on Twitter, I'm on Trump's level, and there is something about knowing that's the only way [he] might see something directly. He keeps blocking individual people. But it's not [only] Chrissy Teigen, who is famous, [getting blocked]. If he's blocking individual people, then he is seeing some of their commentary and it's getting to him."
What do you think of other people who use being blocked as a badge of honor?
"It's all a performance, right? Everything you do on social media is a performance. I don't have very many Twitter followers. So when I write something, I think it's funny, I screenshot it, send it to my closest friends, we all laugh about it. Do I really expect to ever get that many followers and actually be blocked by him? No. Will I put in the effort really? No. It is a show for some people, for everyone. It's a show for me too. That's what we all use social media for."
Do you get replies yourself when you tweet at Trump?
"Most of the time, it gets lost in the noise I've had a couple comments where I've been called a 'libtard' or something like that. Nothing super personal."
Do you worry that you may be contributing to the current political polarization and the disappearance of civic discourse on the internet?
"Deep down, do I think it's constructive for our society, what I'm doing? No. Like, of course not. Of course I should be more of an adult. But I don't know, he's like the toddler-in-chief. I call my senators all the time. I would call the White House if anyone responded. I'm very involved, but it seems like Twitter is the only unfettered, direct way to respond to these people. I know that Trump has no actual idea of what's going on in the world, or what the perception of him is, and I love that there's nothing mitigating our comments from his eyes. That feels like the only direct way to get to him.
"So no, I'm definitely not contributing to a civil, polite society here."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.