Can You Follow A Debate From Twitter? (Yes)

by evanmcmurry

Due to circus-dances, I ended up at the Menomena show last night rather than watching the VP debate; I live-streamed the first few minutes, up until Biden yelled “Malarkey!” before I had to run.

But being stuck inside of a ballroom while something important is happening elsewhere ended up doubling as a phenomenological experiment: could I follow a political debate from Twitter? The answer: pretty much. Simply from my phone, I learned that:

  • Biden had gotten Ryan to admit that the latter had asked for the stimulus funds he was now disparaging, and admitted that he did so because they would help create jobs.
  • Ryan got tangled up trying to defend the privatization of Social Security, while Biden scored points for clearly stating that his party would never let people down on SS or Medicare.
  • Biden was absolutely infuriating Republicans by a) constantly interrupting Ryan, and b) smiling all the time.
  • Most important: Biden was winning, even to the point of steamrolling his newly-diminutive opponent.

I stopped checking my phone about halfway through the debate (which coincided with the band’s first song; I’m not rude.*). After the show I watched clips of the debate and read recaps and commentaries, and everything I’d gleamed above held up. Twitter proved to be an accurate source of both primary information (what got said by whom about what) and qualitative analysis (who’s coming across how and why).

What to make of this? I don’t know. I’m certainly not advocating that we stop watching events in real time and start reading Twitter feeds; obviously, I would have much rather watched the thing as it happened. But you don’t always have that option; there are plenty of other obligations—less-voluntary ones, I might add—than going to a show, and one day you’re going to have to be elsewhere when an event you want to follow is transpiring. So it’s good to know that a Twitter feed can compensate (not, mind you, substitute). I walked out of the Bowery Ballroom more informed on an important political event than any other human in there; somebody from the WAH-Twitter-I-Don’t-Like-New-Things-Jonathan-Franzen crowd needs to explain to me why that’s such a bad thing.

* I am rude; I checked the Yanks/Orioles score throughout the whole show.