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I spent 24 hours on Trump’s Truth Social so you don’t have to. No wonder it’s tanking

In World
April 03, 2024

You’ve likely heard of former President Donald Trump‘s mouthpiece and social media platform, Truth Social. You may have seen headlines that its stock shocked Wall Street with its much-hyped initial public offering. Or that in the week since, it has been hemorrhaging value as investors get a real sense of the company’s worth.

But how many of us know what Truth Social is really like? Judging by the platform’s relatively low number of active users, I’m guessing it’s still a mystery to many Americans. So I joined Truth Social, selflessly going there so you don’t have to.

Twenty-four hours of scrolling through posts from “Truthsayers” on the two-year-old platform explained why the site is tanking. In short, partisan echo chambers are stale, musty spaces that lack the sort of oppositional views needed to make social media tick. Truth Social feels like a MAGA town hall in a ventless conference room, where an endless line of folks step up to the mic to share how the world is out to get them.

Photo illustration of a deflated gold balloon with Donald Trump's face on it.

(Jim Cooke / Los Angeles Times; photo by Joe Raedle / Getty Images )

The Truth Social feed I experienced was a mix of swaggering gun talk, typo-filled Bible scripture, violent Biden bashing, nonsensical conspiracy theories and more misguided memes about Jan. 6 “hostages,” trans satanists and murderous migrants than anyone should be subjected to in one day. Or ever.

What I didn’t see were the anodyne news posts that populate other social platforms, pushback against absurd misinformation about “tsunamis of death for the highly vaccinated!” or ads for much that wasn’t Trump-branded, Trump-adjacent or sold by My Pillow.

Social media has always been a playground for our worst instincts, but here, the madness and misinformation goes largely uncontested because who else but a Trump fan and a columnist forced to write about this stuff would volunteer to wade through such a trash heap? Apparently not enough folks to bring in substantial revenue, according to a recent disclosure that the company had made a mere $4.1 million in revenue in 2023 on losses of more than $58 million — quickly deflating investor enthusiasm and shaving some $4 billion from the company’s valuation in the days since its IPO.

There was little conversation about the platform’s stock plummet, but there was plenty of chatter about a supposed trans takeover, alleged Dem voter fraud, President Biden purportedly sniffing a baby repeatedly during Sunday’s White House Easter egg hunt and a pointless poll from the Daily Mail showing that Trump would beat Michelle Obama if a hypothetical presidential election were held today.

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Trump’s own posts from his @realDonaldTrump account (6.91 million followers) are the backbone of the Truth Social experience, and illustrate what really sets it apart from other social media outlets.

This site has a star, and he garners far more adulation than heat. Thousands of users liked and “ReTruthed” his boasts about a presidential endorsement from Hungarian leader and strongman Viktor Orban, his complaints about the latest gag order from a judge presiding over one of his many court cases and his link to a Newsweek story about Trump sneakers reselling on EBay for $450,000.

His posts are a mix of loud, Trumpian ALL-CAPS warnings — “UNDER CROOKED JOE BIDEN WE HAVE BECOME A THIRD WORLD NATION”— and run-on, word-salad grievances: “I’ve just posted a 175 Million Dollar Bond with the sadly failing and very troubled State of New York, based on a Corrupt Judge and Attorney General who used a Statute that was never used for this before, where no Jury was allowed, my financial statements were conservative and had a 100% perfect caution/non-reliance clause, there were no victims (except me!), there was no crime or damage, there was only success and HAPPY BANKS.”

To sign up for a Truth Social account, one must consent to receive text “updates” from the platform, and that Google Voice number designed to receive all your trash-bin spam calls and texts won’t work (I tried). Next up is choosing a username. The example given is “LibertyForAll.” Needless to say that handle was unavailable, as was “LibertyForAli.” Once in, it suggested accounts to follow such as Trump, conservative news outlets the Daily Wire and Breitbart, country singer John Rich and right-wing troll @Catturd. I did, and today, I am no smarter for doing so.

Social media is in essence a brain drain between sporadic bursts of breaking news and fresh commentary. And even though X, né Twitter, has decayed under the leadership of SpaceX founder Elon Musk, it’s is still the closest thing our fractious online society has to a town square. Threads, Facebook’s attempt to eat Twitter’s lunch, still hasn’t come close to generating enough heat to make it anything more than a placid space where nothing much seems to happen.

Truth Social launched in February 2022 after Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He has since been reinstated on both platforms, though he prefers to truth rather than tweet on his own platform, which is still a relatively small operation. Recent estimates from Similarweb show Truth Social has roughly 5 million active monthly users, compared to X’s estimated 368 million monthly users or Facebook’s 2.9 billion. The smaller number of users translates to a rather sleepy scrolling experience.

Advertisers also like lots of users, and the platform’s ads — or lack thereof — are indicative of the challenges Truth Social has faced in finding companies willing to spend on Trump’s platform. A majority of ads, labeled “Sponsored Truth,” are for Trump-branded merchandise: a 2024 Save America “gold” card, a “California for Trump” hat, an American flag embossed with more MAGA jargon.

Many of the retailers who buy space on the platform appeal to MAGA voters with Fox News-like candor. “Liberals Will Hate to See This!” boasts one ad for a “Love Like Jesus” hoodie. But as Monday’s financial disclosure showed, that niche market might not be enough to put the company in the black.

To be fair, a Wall Street valuation isn’t necessarily the only indicator of a product’s worth in the real world, that place where humans with tangible money and staggering debt actually handle the merchandise and use the service. And many tech companies surge after going public as retail investors buy the hype, then take a haircut as interest fades

Regardless, the volatile stock market story is about the most exciting aspect of Truth Social. Otherwise, it’s a journey into the predictable, punctuated by ALL CAPS.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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