What is social media’s role in this election?


By Joshua Ostrer


The 2012 presidential debate hosted approximately 67.2 million viewers according to Nielsen ratings, and set a 32 year record for viewership in an opening presidential debate previously set by the 1980 debate between President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. But where was social media?

Social media has become a pervasive element in the American social climate, yet it had little role at all in the first presidential debate.

Social media offers a way to connect people in a way that was never possible before.

Take the 1980 debates, for example. Although over 80 million viewers tuned in, none could actually participate. It was just you and the two candidates on TV.

Today, Facebook alone connects approximately 167 million Americans, that’s over 54 percent of the entire country. So why isn’t it being used?

The 2012 presidential debates could utilize social networks to provide a more informative experience for the viewer.

How can they incorporate the social networks? Facebook and Twitter offer many oppurunities.

Just this week, ESPN had two of its sportscasters debate whether fan etiquette had gotten out of hand, and accompanied it with a real-time updated poll from Facebook, gauging how Facebook users felt about the issue, either agreeing or disagreeing.

Why can’t the presidential debates do the same? With Facebook’s ability to access the input of over 167 million Americans, I hope they will.

The debates could also make use of Twitter. Although Twitter is often belittled for producing quantity rather than quality, the opinions of prominent political analysts or fact-checkers could still offer additional information to viewers across the country.

If the presidential debates will listen to three girls from New Jersey about adding female moderators, maybe they should also consider adding social media into the viewing experience because to not do so is depriving Americans of a more comprehensive viewing experience that has never been possible to achieve before today.







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