Barack Obama has mostly been silent since leaving the White House more than three years ago.
The popular ex-president has reportedly refrained from jumping into any political fray and has exercised great restraint in not responding to negative comments directed at him by his successor, Donald Trump.
However, as America and the world battle the deadly coronavirus, Obama has taken on a social media leadership role in trying to encourage first responders and other front-line workers and the American public.
He’s using his social media platform to speak about the pandemic, offering tips and encouragement.
Obama has 112.5 million followers on Twitter, and his official Facebook page has 55 million likes. Trump has 75.3 million Twitter followers, and his official Facebook page has 3.2 million likes, making it evident that when Obama speaks, people tend to pay attention.
Recent tweets from Obama — most of them he’s linked to news articles — include “a useful summary of the current best thinking among public health experts on how we need to approach the fight against COVID-19 in the coming weeks.”
That post was retweeted about 50,000 times.
In another tweet, the 44th president wrote, “big-hearted people inventing new ways to come together, even while remaining apart.”
In another message, Obama linked to a Washington Post article that depicted how the curve of COVID-19 infections can be flattened under various simulations, and the article quickly went viral.
“Watch this,” Obama wrote, referencing the article. “It shows why we should all do the right thing and stay home to the fullest extent possible. All of us can help slow the spread of the virus, protecting the elderly, the vulnerable, and each other.”
Obama has also tweeted about setting good examples during challenging times. He said Americans should “check-up by phone on elderly or vulnerable friends and neighbors who may need our help.”
In referencing another news article, Obama noted that “As communities have begun to recognize the importance of social distancing measures to ‘flatten the curve’ on COVID-19 transmission, here’s a sober but useful primer on what we should expect in the coming months.”
His social media engagement led one news website to lead with the headline: “Is Obama Shadow-Presidenting on Social Media?”
A source close to the former president told NBC News that Obama wants to share “public health messages that people need to be seeing and hearing and understanding.”
“First and foremost, his priority has been to push out important public health messages that he feels people need to learn and understand because this is a complicated issue, and a lot of the science is counter-intuitive,” the individual said. “So, he wants to make sure people have access to good information.”
The source also noted that Obama “wants to help lift up people who are doing good work in this time of crisis, whether that is individuals or organizations or health care workers or just everyday Americans doing extraordinary work,” NBC reported.