7 “Historical” Tweets

On November 8th The Huffington Post tweeted a link to an article by Britney Fitzgerald titled “The 7 Tweets that Defined Election Night 2012.” Among the overload of tweets and statuses about the 2012 Presidential election that bombarded my social media platforms in the first week of November, this particular article caught my eye. Not only was this article about the election found on Twitter, but it was about tweeting. Perfect.

Thirty one million tweets were posted on the day Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney for the presidency. According to the article, “A handful will go down in Twitter history for defining the evening.”

I took it upon myself to label each of these “historical” tweets, as I found appropriate, to gauge the range of emotions and viewpoints on display during the final hours of the contentious election

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Savvy: Doug Bowman – “The ‘fail whale’ Bowman is referencing is a page that appears (or used to appear) on users’ screens when Twitter is over capacity. That frustrating sea animation didn’t get in the way at all while the electoral results were tallied. “

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Opinionated: Donald Trump

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Confidence: Barack Obama “Four More Years” Most re tweeted post in Twitter history.

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Pragmatic: Nate Silver – This statistician accurately predicted Obama’s poll performance in all 50 states

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Groundbreaking: Twitter  – 327,453 posted tweets per minute during peak hours of the election.

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Hopeful: Tammy Baldwin – First Diopenly gay politician to be elected to the U.S Senate

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Disparaging: Big Bird

Alice Marwick and danah boyd write in “I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience” that tweeters “saw the service [Twitter] as a space where they expressed opinions for themselves rather than others” (118). While I see this concept displayed in the tweets above, I can’t help but wonder about other motivations for tweeting, especially during the election. Do people tweet about controversial topics in order to spark debate? Do they want their tweets to get retweeted in order to gain popularity or increase their online clout?? Do they really think they can influence the electorate?

Since the last presidential election in 2008, Twitter has elevated as a (more widely used) platform especially via its trending topics. I think the discourse generated by social media during the 2012 election is what makes this election stand out from others. People were able to publically voice their opinions and others were able to respond. I’m not sure how much the unprecedented exposure of public opinion did to sway decisions but it did seem to raise levels of awareness.

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