Last week, news broke the Donald Trump had selected Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate. As often happens, people took to Twitter to check out what Pence had to say. Understandably, many of them went to @mikepence, who is not the governor but is instead a 49-year-old software engineer who lives in Florida. (His avatar is an American flag, which might have confused some people.) Given Twitter’s penchant for insightful and measured political discussion, we checked in with Pence to see what it was-like to be caught in the social media crossfire.
What has this week been like on Twitter?
I can’t begin to catch up with the mentions of @mikepence on Twitter. On the one hand, it has been hugely entertaining, since I get to troll conservatives a bit by pretending to be in a love affair with @realDonaldTrump using my account. On the other hand, any hope I had of actually using Twitter to have conversations with the many amazing software engineers that I know is pretty much on hold until the governor is (hopefully) no longer the talk of the moment.
It is also interesting that for all of our obsession with our mobile devices, television appearances blow up my notifications like nothing else does.
Are you getting noticeably more replies than you used to?
Way more, but the vast majority of people are not paying any attention to what I have actually said on my Twitter account, or they would know that I am a liberal, atheist, ex–Jehovah’s Witness computer programmer, and not a bigoted shill for the Republican party who is all-too-happy to throw Muslims under the bus for a chance at power.
What are people saying to you? Are they more supportive or critical?
A bit of both. I have long gotten hate-tweets from the left directed at the governor that make me cringe. Getting a front-row seat to a constant barrage of vitriol from the left and groupthink and fan-boy-swooning from the right hasn’t left me with much hope for a political future where civilized discourse holds much sway.
Do you try to let people know that they have the wrong guy or do you just ignore it?
I have made attempts, but don’t generally waste the time to correct people. I have been on Twitter since 2007 and have been participating in social media as a consumer and as a developer for a very long time. It is not really a central part of my day any more.
Has anyone tried to buy your username from you?
Nope. I suspect that the Governor’s camp knows that I am not a fan of him or his ideology and that any attempt to buy the username would be a waste of their time. Why would I be an enabler of a campaign driven by such small-minded hate?
Do you own other Mike Pence usernames, like facebook.com/mikepence? Have you had any trouble there?
I have had one fan of the governor try to friend me on Facebook. Otherwise, there has been no crossover.
Do you have a plan for the rest of the year? Are you setting up filters or considering locking down your account?
I am planning to keep the account because of the trove of valued contacts from my professional life that I am connected to there. Worst case, I get less value from the account because of all of the noise. I have a feeling that if the Trump ticket actually gets elected, that may well be the least of my worries, because I have worked in finance and I know how they react to uncertainty and instability.
Today, I met up with a new running group for the first time, and got to say “My name is Mike Pence … unfortunately.” I am expecting a lot more of that.
Would you vote for Trump/Pence?
Never. I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness and was freed from that cultlike group by opening my mind to new information that I found on the internet. I similarly was a fan of Rush Limbaugh and embraced conservative values because they seemed harmonious with the values I was raised with. But now I deeply regret how I behaved toward gay people and how I shunned those who grew to believe differently than me. That is not love, and that is not the kind of person I want to be, nor is it the kind of thinking I want to see in elected officials.