Aside from stepping into the voting booth Nov. 6, social media has been the most defining element in this election cycle. For instance:
In the first presidential debate, more than 10 million tweets were shared; 7.2 million during the second 6.5 million for the third. Hash tags abounded, trending for a day or so and then disappearing: Joe Biden’s “malarkey;” Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women;” and President Obama’s “horses and bayonets.”
Not to be partisan here, or overstress sensitive points, but look at the tracking:
- One Twitter account, @RomneysBinder, was spawned shortly after that comment was made during the second presidential debate and had more than 30,000 followers by the end of the evening.
- For a few minutes during the second debate, the name of a Town Hall audience member that Romney had a bit of trouble pronouncing captured more than 100,000 tweets.
- The horses and bayonets comment in the third debate racked up more than 105,000 tweets.
- This election overall has generated an average of two million tweets a week.
Unless everyone is watching the same thing at the same time, the instant bonding that social media creates quickly loses its punch: 140 words can’t capture the smirks, the finger-pointing, the cross-talk or even the salient points being made.
Perhaps this “social media election” says something about our modern culture: We are easily amused, captivated or vexed for a few moments and then let it go as soon as the next viral comment comes along. What lingers in our minds in the voting booth? What matters? These are questions yet to be answered.
What other impact does social media in Tampa have? Here is one anecdotal point: A well-known Tampa Bay TV anchor posted a poll about the economy on his Facebook page. “Friends” immediately peppered him with questions about the source and even the anchor’s objectivity: Where was a poll from the other side? What special interest group created the poll? Why did he post it?
In the end, after some back and forth, the anchorman said he would only post surveys from viewers, not something he saw while web-surfing (like everyone else) and spontaneously decided to post. Good for him for showing such honesty; good for social media for prompting it.
Perhaps social media’s real impact has been making us feel we’re really participating in a process that affects us greatly, but over which we have little control. It’s perceived that big donors and special interests have elbowed us – We, The People – out of the political process. Polls (honestly, how many of you have ever taken part in one?) give the elections a stock-market feel that may seem completely detached from our own views.
What social media in Tampa does best is serve as an instant barometer. Perhaps it is the only thing that makes us feel like we can make a difference. Tweeting or posting gives us a feeling that our voice is heard – at least by someone.
We are getting involved and we are communicating, and that is what is important in the days leading up to one of the most divisive and close elections in a generation.
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