I joined Truth Social so you don’t have to

I had forgotten about former President Donald Trump’s Truth Social. Poised to be a “free speech” alternative to Twitter, the app had an unceremonious launch in February.

But in the past few weeks, Truth has exploded in popularity. It reached the top of the App Store rankings, aided in large part by Elon Musk’s bidding war for Twitter and Trump making his first posts to Truth since its release.

I was intrigued. I wanted to know why people were flocking to Truth in an already saturated social media market. I wanted to know what it was like on a “non-woke” platform. Is it really any different from Twitter, Facebook and the like?

So, I dusted off my iPhone 6S (Truth still doesn’t have a desktop or Android app), downloaded a picture of G-Eazy to use as my profile picture and downloaded Truth Social.

The profile-creating experience is hardly unique from similar platforms. You’re prompted to input a host of personal information, including your full name, phone number and email address. Pick a handle and display name, upload a profile and cover photo and you’re ready to grift.

Upon creating an account, you’re required to follow at least two “suggested profiles” before you can start posting. My top five were Donald Trump, Truth Social’s official account, Newsmax, Donald Trump Jr. and One America News Network. Naturally, I followed all five.

When I got onto the app, it didn’t take long for me to realize how unfinished it felt. Your feed only includes posts from accounts you follow. When you’re a brand-new account, this makes it hard to find other profiles.

I gained 20 followers within two minutes of my account being created. Despite CEO Devin Nunes stating otherwise, it seems like bots are still overrunning the platform.

The search function doesn’t really work either. I wanted to see what users had to say about Elon Musk buying Twitter, but you’re only allowed to search posts from accounts you follow. Additionally, there’s no direct messaging feature. This was going to make it infinitely harder to talk to users about why they joined Truth.

Or so I thought.

People are generous on this app. Within minutes of posting my first “Truth,” a low-res photo of the American flag with the caption “FREEDOM,” I had 10 likes and a few “ReTruths.”

I started following as many random accounts as I could, and posting questions under popular posts to try to spark conversation. I tried to fit in by overusing emojis and making my photos intentionally grainy.

I even made a few graphics, overlaying “Why did you join Truth Social” over stock images of a cross in a field, watermarks and all. I sized down the resolution to match the old-people-on-Facebook vibe and started posting. I received dozens of replies in no time.

“The same reason I joined Twitter: I wanted to read what [Donald Trump] had to say without filters or selective interpretation. I prefer to read and form my own opinions than to be led by others,” wrote @tomoliver.

User @NuttyRageUS echoed a similar sentiment.

“Joined in the hope that I could have a voice, to have a forum that provides fair exchange of ideas coupled with a level playing field to discuss opposing views,” they wrote.

Ultimately, this is where Truth Social falls short. For @tomoliver, reading and forming your own opinions on a platform dominated by identical rhetoric is a dubious notion.

In @NuttyRageUS’s case, Truth doesn’t really feature the “opposing views” they reference. Outside of a few liberal accounts that were there to troll, I didn’t come across a single profile that offered serious political rebuttals to Trumpism. There are plenty of conservatives on Twitter. There are only conservatives on Truth.

Ironically, these responses made it clear that many users joined Truth to enter an echo chamber, unchallenged and unbothered by contesting viewpoints that exist on platforms with a wider audience.

But that’s not the only reason people join Truth. Some do it because it’s the only platform they have left. That was the case for @MeinFuhrer (yes, that’s really their username), who joined after being fed up with Twitter’s content policy.

“Half the sh*t I say on there is shadow banned. I’ve had 3 accounts banned for life. It’s ridiculous,” they wrote.

Given their handle, I wasn’t surprised. I asked @MeinFuhrer about the obvious controversial undertones of their username.

“It literally translates to ‘my leader’ or ‘teacher.’ Seems fitting given the work we’re all doing,” they wrote. “I also don’t pander to people with small minds that immediately get offended by words.”

Seeing themself as a teacher of sorts, having a platform is important.

“As a conservative that gives a sh*t, I want to reach as many people as possible,” they wrote. “There are a lot of conservatives here on Truth that started out as liberal. It just takes the right message at the right time to get through.”

It’s hard to get banned on Twitter. It’s harder to get banned three times. Truth serves as a haven for those whose rhetoric has been deemed too offensive for other platforms. But we need to ask ourselves if somebody who wants to be called Mein Fuhrer is deserving of a platform in the first place.

Essentially, the app is nothing more than a far-right Facebook group; it functions as a safe space for conservatives. They can be offensive without repercussions. They can be stupid without rebuttal.

There are some accounts dedicated to posting science videos, sports highlights and more. But they’re few and far between. Unless you’re only interested in reactionary political discourse, Truth is going to be a very limited and underwhelming experience for you.

Even at that, it’s stale. How are you going to “own the libs,” when there are no libs on the platform to own?

It will never replace Twitter, and I’m not sure that was ever the goal.