The State of the Union address by the President of the United States is a yearly spectacle that I always look forward to watching every year. Regardless of what party the President hails from, I find the speeches inspiring and unifying. This year, however, I had my Organizational Dynamics class during the address. Rather than watch a replay of the televised address, I decided to follow the action live on social media (yes, part of it during class!).
I found my experience of consuming the content via social media (following live feeds on Twitter, Facebook and on news sites such as the BBC) much more engaging than simply consuming the content passively through a television screen. I was more attuned to the reactions of the public and more aware of the debate surrounding key topics.
So did the nation. MSNBC reports that the State of the Union generated over 2.6 million tweets, half of which were tagged with #SOTU. Even the White House preempted this response by putting the salient aspects of the speech beforehand on a blogging site, Medium, an unprecedented move.
In many ways, I find that social media can help revive public debate and sustain a thriving democracy in the United States. The apathy that we have witnessed in recent decades could partially be due to a lack of a forum where the general politic can express their opinions. Gone are the days of lively town halls. Enter social media to fill that void. I am more optimistic than ever that social media can lift us out of our indifference and make us speak to one another again about the crucial issues facing our generation. While I may still have the television screen on in the background in future political programming, I will simultaneously be joining the debate on Twitter, Facebook and other news blogs.