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A brief history of Donald Trump’s handshakes

Would you prefer the Potential Whiplash or the 19 seconder? 

Hello and welcome to the 21st century, where the President of the United States struggles to perform simple actions such as completing a handshake. The man tasked with unifying a nation divided, managing delicate international relations and trying to ban Muslims without explicitly stating he’s banning Muslims has one more thing to add to his list: performing a greeting.

Trump has literally no experience in almost every part of politics, but one would assume he’d have vaguely grasped the concept of a handshake. For President Trump, masculinity lies in the act of a handshake. His pure virility is on show as he wraps his hands around yours and tugs at your every fibre of being. “I Am Man,” his shake seems to say, as you try and unclasp your hands 26 seconds into the exchange, anxious and clammy from this hitherto unforeseen finger jive you've just unwillingly performed.

Every state meeting, every deal he completes - Trump’s got to do the shake. The 60s had the Cuban Missile Crisis, the 70s had Watergate, and today we have a powerful head of state unable to say hello in the form of a standard physical greeting.

So, for future games of Trump Handshake Bingo, here's what to look out for:

The "Potential Whiplash" shake

A man somewhere early in Trump’s life once told him: “Son, if you grab a man by his hands, and yank him towards you so hard that he can barely stand, you will win his wife and cattle.” This seems to have determined the businessman's technique to present day. This particular style can be seen in exchanges with Vice President Mike Pence, as well as Trump's Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch. It is characterised by an erratic tug that transposes the vertical axis of a generic handshake to a horizontal one.

The "I am scared of small ramps so let me grasp your hand limply" shake

After constant coverage of the first meeting between Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump, a weird thing happened. Sure, there was much to be said about Trump's feelings towards Nato, or May’s blatant inability to condemn Trump’s ban, but the real political intrigue lies in why exactly Trump held May’s hand. Was it an in-transit shake on the way to lunch? Or, as sources have suggested, a panicked reaction based on the small decline of the pavement Trump and May were walking on? A true mystery of our times.

This shake defies conventional definition, sitting in an ambiguous space between an elderly couple holding hands, and heads of state greeting for the fifteenth time. A gentle technique is used here, often combined with a small pat - one of Trump's rare soft moments.

The "19 Seconder"

Need to show one of your closest international allies who's really boss? This handshake is for you. A real marathon session, this particular handshake shows not only a physical confusion from Trump, but a temporal one too. Lasting for a total of nineteen seconds, the shake between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump at their joint press conference was a new addition to the cannon. Abe’s parting eye roll at the seconds he would never get back in his life is a must for this style of shake.

The "Do you even lift bro" shake

Beautiful Justin Trudeau and his stupid beautiful hands. Here, Trump's standard handshake was overridden by Canada’s Prime Minister, in a true dance of morals (and bicep control). Anticipating an erratic shake, Trudeau steadies himself with a shoulder grab. This in turn requires Trump to also grab Trudeau’s shoulder. All four hands are now touching, grabbing at power and masculinity; scrabbling over truth and justice; liberty and freedom. In this important show of power, it is Trudeau, that wins.

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People are not prepared to see innovation at any price - we need to take care of our digital health

Correcting the course of technology in Britain does not need to mean taking backwards steps and becoming an anti-innovation zone.

As individuals, we have never been better connected. As a society, we are being driven further apart.

Doteveryone’s People Power and Technology report, released this week, found that half of the 2,500 British people we surveyed said the internet had made life a lot better for people like them - but only 12 per cent saw a very positive impact on society.

These findings won’t be news to most people living in Brexit Britain - or to anyone who’s been involved in a spat on Twitter. The fact that we’re constantly connected to our smartphones has not necessarily improved our communities or our understanding of one other, and the trails of data we’re leaving behind are not turning into closer social bonds.

Many of the positives we experience are for ourselves as individuals.

Lots of consumer tech puts simple self-sufficiency first - one-click to buy, swipe right to date - giving us a feeling of cosy isolation and making one little phone an everywhere. This powerful individualism is a feature of all of the big platforms - and even social networks like Facebook and Twitter, that are meant bring us together, do so in the context of personalised recommendations and algorithmically ordered timelines.

We are all the centre of our own digital worlds. So it is no surprise that when we do look up from our phones, we feel concerned about the impact on society. Our research findings articulate the dilemma we face: do we do the thing that is easiest for us, or the one that is better for society?

For instance, 78 per cent of people see the Internet as helping us to communicate better, but 68 per cent also feel it makes us less likely to speak to each other face-to-face. 69per cent think the internet helps businesses to sell their products and services, while 53 per cent think it forces local shops to compete against larger companies online.

It’s often hard to see the causality in these trade-offs. At what point does my online shopping tip my high street into decline? When do I notice that I’ve joined another WhatsApp group but haven’t said hello to my neighbour?

When given clear choices, the public was clear in its response.  

We asked how they would feel if an online retailer offered free one-day delivery for lower income families, but this resulted in local shops closing down - 69 per cent found this unacceptable. Or if their bank invested more in combating fraud and cyber crime, but closed their local branch - 61 per cent said it was unacceptable. Or if their council made savings by putting services online and cut council tax as a result, but some people would find it hard to access these services - 56 per cent found it unacceptable.

It seems people are not prepared to see innovation at any price - and not at the expense of their local communities. The poorest find these trade offs least acceptable.

Correcting the course of technology in Britain does not need to mean taking backwards steps and becoming an anti-innovation zone.

A clearer regulatory environment would support positive, responsible change that supports our society, not just the ambition of a few corporations.

Some clarity about our relationship with web services would be a good start. 60 per cent of people Doteveryone spoke to believed there should be an independent body they can turn to when things go wrong online; 89 per cent would like terms and conditions to be clearer, and 47% feel they have no choice but to sign up to services, even when they have concerns.

Technology regulation is complicated and fragmentary. Ofcom and the under-resourced Information Commissioner’s Office, provide some answers,but they are not sufficient to regulate the myriad effects of social media, let alone the changes that new technologies like self-driving cars will bring. There needs to be a revolution in government, but at present as consumers and citizens we can’t advocate for that. We need a body that represents us, listens to our concern and gives us a voice.

And the British public also needs to feel empowered, so we can all make better choices - adults and children alike need different kinds of understanding and capability to navigate the digital world. It is not about being able to code: it is about being able to cope.

Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and well-being, and reduce health inequalities. Perhaps we need a digital equivalent, to protect and improve our digital health and well-being, and reduce digital inequalities.

As a society, we should not have to continually respond and adapt to the demands of the big corporations: we should also make demands of them - and we need confidence, a voice, and representation to begin to do that.

Rachel Coldicutt is chief executive of Doteveryone.