When Donald Trump first announced his fledgling social network last October, he claimed it would be a way to “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech” in a world where “the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced.” Implicit in that quintessentially Trumpian bombast was the promise that his would be platform at least moderately different from the unnamed Big Tech sites that had unceremoniously “silenced” him in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection. This was to be his grand revenge against the Zuckerbergs and Dorseys of the world, who had not only denied him his favorite platform for complaining about celebrities and soda, but who had also, he claimed, helped foment the alleged election conspiracy against him.
In other words, the impression was that not only was Trump trying to launch his long-rumored media empire on the back of a Twitter alternative, but that the entire enterprise was a deeply personal one for him. And given Trump’s raised stature as not simply a business mogul but a former president, it’s understandable that expectations for his social media platform would be slightly higher than his various forays from his pre-political life. This wasn’t steaks or bottled water, this was social media, from a man whose online presence quite literally changed the world for years at a time.
It is not a nice place, but worse still, it’s not an interesting one either.
And yet, upon visiting Truth Social, the most immediate thing you notice is how dull the whole thing is. Not simply in terms of what “truths” are being “socialed,” but in the basic makeup of the platform itself. It’s just … boring as hell. If your ordinary eye-glazing bout of doomscrolling on Twitter is the baseline we’re working with here, then this is that, but somehow less fun, and with more typos. It’s a barren wasteland covered in lackluster billboards for expensive pillows and populated by aspiring MAGA influencers. It is not a nice place, but worse still, it’s not an interesting one either.
The overall dullness of Truth Social is a direct product of its basic existential premise: “What if Twitter, but for MAGA fanatics?” The problem is that by essentially duplicating Twitter not only in terms of functionality, but design as well, Truth Social adds nothing to the already overcrowded social media ecosystem. Nothing on the site is different from its much larger, more refined predecessor. There isn’t a single pixel of Twitter.com and the accompanying app that hasn’t been tested, rejiggered, and evaluated to within an inch of its life. Truth Social, on the other hand, was created in an apparently rushed, slapdash sprint toward release, and it shows: The design elements that helped make Twitter the behemoth it is seem to be replicated in broad strokes, without any of the same nuance or intentionality. Tweets? Try “Truths!” Blue check marks? How about red ones! Cry more, libs!
Actually, let’s dig a little deeper into the trending hashtags, shall we?
Literally tens of people talking about #DogsofTruthSocial? Yeehaw, it’s a party! Speaking of:
Yup, that’ll do it.
The platform really is noticeably sparse. Consider that Trump, the singular driving force behind Truth Social, has just over 3 million followers on his own app — a far cry from the nearly 90 million followers he enjoyed in his waning days on Twitter. And even with multiple millions of people hanging on his every “Truth” today, his messages regularly clock in with just a few thousand re-Truths, and around 10,000 to 20,000 likes — hardly the sort of reach and depth he once wielded from a Twitter account that used to literally dictate global politics.
And beyond the scant content and jejune design lies a deeper, more fatal flaw in Truth Social’s quest for social media dominance. It took mere minutes, literally, after I first logged on for me to realize that the site — all the Truths™ and ReTruths™ and trending topics and recommended follows — has literally no point. Sure, I suppose you could argue it serves some sort of utilitarian purpose as the primary conveyer of Trumpian missives (to the extent that those have any real value), but in terms of actually being a place to spend any substantive amount of time? There’s no real there there. If an “echo chamber” is people simply agreeing with one another without any external factors to keep things interesting, Truth Social is even worse: Not only is it almost devoid of any sort of dynamism, it doesn’t seem to have any actual “social” aspect either. In my experience, the platform was largely a place for big, notable accounts — Trump, Dan Bongino, the guy who sells the pillows — to make rambling proclamations, to which a flock of normal users would simply reply “right on” or “MAGA” or “pillows!” (I’m paraphrasing here). There’s a lot of extremely amateurish, deeply uninteresting memes too, and a good amount of self-promotional spam.
To that end, it’s best to think of Truth Social less as a social media platform, and more as an intensely tangled series of highway overpasses — each with a single car driving in a perpetual loop, vaguely visible to other drivers, and they all occasionally shout toward one another through their windows but never actually share the same road. Also, all the drivers are, or are the sort of person who wants to be, the Dilbert guy.
This is what happens when a social network markets itself as a place for a single type of user. While people on larger, more diverse social networks still experience a degree of siloing based on whose content they’ve chosen to interact with and how, that process is neither absolute nor irreversible; the mark of a good (or at least “successful”) social network is its ability to not only ensure you are in touch with the people you choose, but also that you are exposed to enough other stuff to make you keep coming back for more. That’s not the case on Truth Social, where everything is all MAGA, all the time. Even for people who have based their entire personalities around yelling “LET’S GO BRANDON,” you have to wonder when the novelty of shouting into a void will wear off.
Overall, it’s pretty hard to imagine the site will ever grow into its supposed role as a worthy cornerstone in Trump’s long promised media empire. There’s also the fact that earlier this summer, Trump, along with his son Don Jr. and a handful of other associates, seemingly stepped down as “director” of the board of the Trump Media & Technology Group, the parent company behind Truth Social, according to government filings between April and July. The company has denied that the former president has abdicated his board position, claiming to Axios that Trump remains “chairman.” But as with so many things to do with Trump’s internal finances and business machinations, it’s unclear what that actually means. What is clear, however, is that the alleged departure came at roughly the same time as TMTG was being subpoenaed as part of an apparent investigation into the various corporate entities involved in taking the company public.
They say that truth is often stranger than fiction, but in this case: a Trump-run company with a shoddy-seeming product that’s being investigated for apparent corporate shenanigans? Well, that’s not so hard to believe at all.