There is nothing like watching an event live, with between 5 and 1,500 of your closest friends. Tonight, a large portion of your twitter feed will be tuned into the Presidential Debate - and honestly, you should be too.
Now trust me, I understand that I’m speaking to a biased audience. If you’re regularly - or even semi-regularly - checking The Cycle’s website, I probably don’t have to do much to get you to watch a political debate. It seems you’re seeking it out on your own, via our TV show. But yesterday, S.E. delivered a rant on how & why to choose a “Twitter Buddy” for the big event - and it got me thinking about the group-think experience that Twitter allows for.
A quick aside: Before you bombard my comment section with how much you do or (more likely) don’t like S.E., please keep in mind 1) I really don’t care. And 2) S.E. has been nothing but nice to me since joining the show, and I have no problem deleting your non-sequitur rants about why she “shouldn’t be allowed on the air.” Because, you know… the whole free speech thing.
As I was saying, there is a social paradox created when you watch an event live while monitoring Twitter. You are at once connected, and completely on your own. Tonight, depending on the nature of your “feed” you’ll be joined in cheering or heaping scorn on one of the candidates. You’ll be subject to Sulia-addled diatribes that far exceed the gentleman’s 140 (I just made that up, feel free to spread it around), and multi-tweet blasts aimed at pulverizing you into seeing their way. Of course, you probably already see it their way, because you follow them. That’s what writers used to call irony… I think.
Twitter allows you to see populist opinions being formed in real-time. This is most evident during two things: Nationally televised basketball games, and Red Carpet events. The chorus tells you who is playing defense, who’s responsible for the win, who is best dressed, and who is the worst actor in the world. And that’s just basketball Twitter. After the general populace has decided the real winners and losers, on come the self-proclaimed taste-makers. Trailing consensus like a relay partner unable to reach the baton, they deliver all of the jokes and commentary you’ve already read, and then retweet their compliments. This happens about 11 seconds before the trolls set off in formation, verbal pyromaniacs looking for any dialogue they can napalm.
This is how tonight will go. And then those people that tweet out every borderline-interesting quote from the debate will sweep through, hitting our reset button, starting it all over again.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
But there’s value in the group-viewing of this debate. There are really smart people out there that will be tweeting out more than jokes and talking points. Just like when you’re watching a game, there are people that will send out facts and figures that go along with the information you’re getting from the event itself. As S.E. said, you will really finish watching the Debate better informed than when you began. People use group-think as an epithet, but it doesn’t have to be. Groups of people thinking about the same issue has solved puzzles, cured diseases, built cities. Twitter is a lot of things, but most of all.. it’s a tool. If you set out with a plan, you can follow a group of people that will teach you about any topic on the planet. Botanists, stylists, home-repair, chefs, trainers, writers, physicists, hunters, and interior designers… they’re all out there. They’re following each other, and engaging each other, and exchanging ideas.
Twitter may be a great place to burn some free time, but there’s no reason to waste that time. Burn it as fuel. Find interesting people, who are likely to surprise you with their take on the debate, and keep on eye on what they say. Watch the debate, and try to identify the highs and lows for yourself. Maybe unfollow everyone and start over, a Twitter reset button.
Just don’t follow me, because I’ll be watching Modern Family. I prefer real drama.