Where is Justin Trudeau right now?
The Canadian Prime Minister's toothsome grin is in your old high school friend's Twitter feed, where he's kayaking on a placid Canadian lake and paddling up to their parents to say hello. And he's jogging through a waterfront prom photoshoot on your mom's Facebook. Also, and maybe even at the same time, because who can really know except for the assurances afforded by known physics, Justin Trudeau is casually sauntering through a beachside wedding.
The folksy sort of omnipresence Trudeau has cultivated online stands in stark contrast to the imagined embodiment that US President Donald Trump projects through social media—singular, afraid, cooped up, a trembling kernel of confused rage. Where is Donald Trump? Why, he's in the Mar-a-Lago, head peeking out from under his duvet covers, watching cable TV and slowly turning the shade of a ripe strawberry. But where is Justin Trudeau?
It's surprisingly difficult to answer after being inundated by photo after smiling Twitter photo of Justin Trudeau totally organically ambling through your aunt's cousin's ex-husband's local Tim Hortons on a Wednesday. Simply, he's everywhere else.
It's unclear if this is the result of a carefully planned social media strategy, or Trudeau's intuitive understanding of his place in the world and the current technology landscape, where everybody has a camera and a social media account at the ready. Probably, it's both. Trudeau's office has spent plenty of money to gain social media clout.
Both Trump and Trudeau use social media to "authentically" connect with millions of people. The difference is that Trump's digital presence loudly draws attention to his singular self—the fact that he's completely unhinged only adds to the effect. In contrast, Trudeau prefers to transiently occupy others' communication channels in a sort of spectral charm offensive.
Either way, it boils down to this: Trudeau doesn't need to take photos of himself to seem like an approachable everyman, because everyone else will do it for him. He's mastered everybody else's social media, and everybody else's expectations and desires. He just has to step into the frame.
So, where is Justin Trudeau? Chiefly, I think, he's inside your head. That's what social media does—he's everywhere in meatspace, and in cyberspace, like an omnipresent voice whispering that the liberal-democratic world order will persevere; that you can have feminist oil derricks; that you can preserve rampant capitalism and fully respect the lifestyles and beliefs of Indigenous peoples; that you can have a politics that is comfortably everywhere and nowhere, just like Trudeau himself.
But this isn't true, really. Trudeau is somewhere, after all. He has to be. Politics, unlike digital images, can't float forever in a sea of pleasant indifference.
Where is Justin Trudeau?
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