There's 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 second presidential debate —and honestly, you should be too.
On today's show, Adam Sharp of Twitter talked with our Cyclists about his site's ability to bring people together on everyone's own couch to watch and discuss politics together.
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 already seeking it out on your own. Which got me thinking about the group-think experience that Twitter creates.
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 looks great, who's responsible for the win, who's best dressed, and who is the worst actor in the world. And that's just basketball Twitter.
Tonight, we'll see the same act during the debate. After the general populace has decided the real winners and losers, on come the self-proclaimed taste-makers. Trailing consensus like a relay partner straining to reach the baton, they deliver all of the jokes and commentary you've already said, read, favorited and blocked—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. Contrarian, inflamatory, ignorant, and racist. There's not not much we can do about you, trolls... Just hope Slate doesn't out you!
This is what you're in for. And then those people that tweet out every borderline-interesting quote from the debate will sweep through, hitting our reset button, starting the process all over again.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
But behind my doom-and-gloom description, there's real 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 can be a useful compliment to the event itself. As S.E. said before the first debate, you really will 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 have solved puzzles, cured diseases, and 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, comedians, 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 reboot, if you will.
Just don't follow me, I'm watching Sons of Anarchy.
You can follow Nick: @Nick_NoHeart