Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Last night was probably one of the best nights of homework I had recently: I watched the CNN-facebook State of the Nation event, on facebook, along with scores of other people. It was terrific to blend what I would have been doing otherwise with an obligation for class. And I did learn a few things. First, the positives.

It was pretty exciting and encouraging to see so many people becoming actively engaged in the political discourse of our time. The comments were mixed (see the end for my favorite lines from facebook comments) with those for and those against the President and his proposals. While seeing some more objectivity would have been nice, it was clear most people were tuning in with their opinions already made up. But the fact that so many viewers were able to watch, comment and have their input seen by others around the globe was thrilling. There were people from Korea, Pakistan, Europe, Buenos Aires, Canada and of course the US. I can not think of another way that so many people could share in something, in real time, that effects those very people. Certainly this made me feel that this technology was assisting us in moving forward, at least as far as getting people involved. And not just involved like they think about things sometimes. But involved because they could be part of the discussion, and more importantly, chose this forum to watch the speech precisely because they could engage in the conversation.

However, I would be remiss not to mention that it did seem a lot more like sitting around with either a group of lefty hipsters, or a group of die-hard Cheney fans (depending on the commentator) than it felt like watching "the best political team on television" as CNN claims.

While I agree - Nancy Pelosi looked a bit insane and her dress was truly tragic - I was amazed at how many comments had to do with these and other meaningless parts of the broadcast, and very little to do with the actual substance being covered in the President's address. Some were there to spew, some were there to coo and some were just there to check it out. But the vitriol with which some people engaged, and the blind following of others made me wonder whether this type of interaction was actually helping move the discussion forward. At times it seemed more like helping facebook try to become a mainstream source of information, and assist CNN attract new viewers.

In the end I would put this in the "engaged" column because so many people did sign in to take part in what is ultimately an important moment in the fate of our society. Perhaps to some, simply seeing so many others participating helped to add gravity to the importance of being involved in our nation's trajectory. However, it is clear that mob rule is a real potential dark side to this new media, and that many are not using these tools to move the conversation forward.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, some notable comments from the evening (spelling mistakes and all). If you read to the end you will be rewarded with a good chuckle, I promise:

Michael William Collins asks what each of us facebook users will do for our country.

Jordan Prok Obama's Goal: Making Americans understand the difference between neccessities and luxuries.

Chris Denslow can't wait for the Repug response about how we will tax cut our way out of the recession. I need a good laugh.

Daniel Rollings That was 80 billion for alternative energy in that stimulus bill. Finally money where it really counts.

Benjamin Souza has heard nothing but spending, spending and more spending which equals HUGE debt.

John Matthews There's more oil in the Dakotas than anywhere else on earth. Just let us drill.

Sadiya El-Nubein' facebook is sooo innovative to have this status while watching the Pres. Love it.

Chiara Di Bendetto Brown our entire corrupt government in one room, how sickening.

Shailesh Kumar How will our children repay China for all the money we are going to borrow from them.

Nicole Quick can't believe she just watched the State of the Union on Facebook.

And by far my two most favorite comments:

Chidi Afulezi just saw McCain mutter "If I have to stand again, Joe the Plumber's about to get nasty up in this piece.

Jasmaine Graves thinks Nancy P. wants Obama to take her to "Pleasure Town."


  1. Do you think the administration has someone sifting through these comments and measuring them? Wondering if twittering/facebook updates/etc. have an impact on policy...if this phenomenon is more than just "hey look neat-o new technology and we can see what people think in real time" and that someone in the great somewhere out there is listening, logging, and considering our thoughts in the grander scheme of American politics.

  2. It is possible, but can't say how probable I think. Here is an interesting piece on that which I am going to blog about a bit later this evening: