In Halifax, Erica Baguma is just another student studying at the University of King’s College, but she has earned celeb status on Twitter with an account that has amassed more than 250,000 followers eager to read her retweets of Americans who regret voting for President Donald Trump.
Baguma, 24, started the @Trump_Regrets account less than two weeks after the election.
“I was looking to see if Trump’s followers were surprised that he’d won and if they were still totally on board with him being president, and I found that there were so many people already regretting their votes,” says Baguma. “I thought that was interesting and that people might want to see it.”
The account has since become somewhat of a running tally of frustrations with the leader who once gave them hope. In a few short months, the account has taken off and is now followed by some big names including Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Williams and Rosie O’Donnell.
@realDonaldTrump You are making me regret I voted for you.
Get off twitter, you are validating all of negatives voices.
— Andy Crane (@AndyCrane1) November 29, 2016
As we all attempt to weather the daily Twitterstorm from the leader of the free world, we reached out to Baguma to talk tweets and Trump.
What interested you so much about U.S. politics?
It’s so hard to avoid it, it’s all you see on TV and especially on Twitter, where I spend a lot of my time. I’m interested in Canadian politics as well, but it’s certainly not as entertaining. I’ve definitely become more interested in the past couple years, now that it’s more accessible. I’m also becoming more engaged as I get older, and I feel like now young people are getting more engaged in politics because it’s becoming more pressing.
How much of your time does managing the account take up?
To be honest, it takes up a lot of my time. I spend probably a couple of hours a day on it. At the very beginning it didn’t take as long, but as I got more followers, it became more important that I make sure that the tweets I retweet are from legit users.
Did something happen to make you realize you needed to be more careful?
As soon as it was in the public eye and getting covered by Huffington Post, of course there were going to be critics. I had people saying that it was fake and that I was making it all up, that some of the people I was retweeting had just started their accounts a couple days before. It’s a legitimate concern.
So how do you find regrets that are genuine and real?
I find the tweets by hand because if I were to use an algorithm it wouldn’t be able to detect fake accounts or users that are tweeting the same message from multiple accounts as effectively. I also try and make sure that people were tweeting in support of Donald Trump before the election and that they tweet about other things, not just politics. That they’re real people.
The biggest mistake I have made this far in life was believing a damn word out of @realDonaldTrump and voting for him. The guy is failing us
— Shelby Jones (@duxfanatic) March 5, 2017
— S/Slvs (@JarrodAshe) February 28, 2017
Why is making sure these regrets are legit important to you?
It undermines the account if these people aren’t real. I want it to be a platform for people who did vote for Donald Trump and maybe don’t regret their votes yet, but I want them to be able to look at this and think, “These people are like me.” There’s also a community being created. We talk to each other and people reach out to people who voted for Trump and those who didn’t. If they’re not real people, then they’re not engaging.
Who would you say follows this account, is it mostly Democrats or a mix?
Do you notice spikes in followers or interaction when big news stories happen?
Yes, for sure. It’s almost always in response to the news or his tweets. Whenever there’s a tweetstorm from him, which usually only happens when something is happening in the news, that’s when it spikes.
What were some of the big spikes of regret you’ve seen?
The biggest one—and this was also the one that prompted me to start the account—was when the Trump administration announced that they weren’t going to be pursuing charges against Hillary Clinton. To date, besides his immature tweets and him not acting presidential, this is definitely [the biggest] reason people regret voting for him. Beyond that, there was a lot of backlash against the Muslim ban and how Sean Spicer mentioned in passing that they may be going after marijuana.
@realDonaldTrump I am a twice cancer survivor, don’t lie to American people medical marijuana works.I supported you.
— email@example.com (@rdr324) March 1, 2017
Do you find that as the moderator, you have to keep up with U.S. politics even more now?
I don’t feel as though I have to, but I’m much more engaged. Now that I know what’s important to Trump voters, I find it really interesting to see how justified their belief in him was. I find U.S. politics more compelling now that [I can see] Trump supporters have a human face.
It’s interesting that you say it has a human face for you now because it’s still all online. Have you ever met up with people?
No. I’ve talked to them on Twitter and through direct messaging. I’ve actually been disappointed because I’ve reached out to a few people to see if we could talk by phone to get to know them, but I think they’re wary of being made fun of or harassed, and I understand that. I think some of them are sort of embarrassed. I still have yet to meet a Trump supporter in real life.
There’s a lot of talk about bubbles and this divide, where does something like this account fit into that discussion? Do you think it helps bridge things a bit?
I think it’s helping. There are Republicans that would tell you otherwise, but I think it’s a good way to understand each other. Through the account, a lot of us have realized that these people had real concerns, people weren’t voting for Donald Trump just for entertainment value. A lot of these people were concerned about their families, their safety or their health. That’s something that’s really helped people feel a connection to their fellow Americans.
Do you think part of the reason your account has taken off is because the U.S. has a president that is so vocal on Twitter?
Donald Trump’s Twitter campaign definitely set the climate for my account. This is something that’s never happened before. A lot of people joined Twitter just to read his tweets because they didn’t trust the media and they wanted to hear everything straight from the horse’s mouth. It’s also empowered a lot of people, I’ve noticed, to feel like they’re talking to Donald Trump. The majority of the tweets I retweet are people seemingly telling Donald Trump that they regret voting for him. I think his candor online has created this illusion that it goes both ways and that he’s listening.
What is the most memorable tweet you’ve gotten?
— Lisa O’Malley (@SwordfishParm) January 29, 2017
Twitter can be a pretty hostile place, especially when it comes to discussion of U.S. politics. What kind of treatment do you get online?
Overwhelmingly, people are really nice. But I’ve also gotten a lot of backlash; a lot of mean, cruel messages. Even on Facebook, I’ve had people look at my parents’ Facebook accounts and find ugly pictures of me. It’s really weird. I can’t really be mad because they have no real reason to hate me.
Have you had to block or delete any users?
I will block people if they’re being abusive or harassing the people who voted for Donald Trump and regret it. I don’t want people to be discouraged from sharing their regrets because people are going to be mean to them, but I always warn them before I block them.
I’ve also heard that if someone asks you to delete your retweet of their regret, you will?
Yeah, I will definitely take it down. Only three people have taken me up on it so far, but I’m always open to it. This isn’t supposed to be a smear campaign.
Have you heard from The Donald himself or anyone from his team?
No. Nothing at all.
You’re Canadian, but if you had the chance, who would you have voted for in the U.S.?
This is a hard question. To be honest, I try not to make my political leanings a focal point. I wouldn’t have voted for Donald Trump and I wouldn’t have not voted.
How long will you keep this going?
There’s no end in sight. If people are still tweeting their regret, I don’t see why I would stop.
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