President Bill Clinton addresses the Democratic National Convention Sept. 5 in Charlotte, N.C.
Every second, 11 new Twitter accounts enter the Twittersphere, according to InfoGraphic Labs. This means that each second, approximately 11 new voices take form on Twitter, ready to contribute to the over 400 million tweets that flood the Internet daily, as reported by Twitter.
When Alyssa Douglas, a 16-year-old high school student from Ohio, posted to her Twitter on Thursday night, her single tweet stood out among the masses to the Secret Service: “Someone needs to assassinate Obama … like ASAP.”
While it is unlikely that the teenage girl poses a true threat to President Obama, the incident draws attention to the veil of social media, behind which there seems to be no consequence for posting candid thoughts — in spite of the fact that threatening the president of the United States is a federal crime.
Douglas is not the first person to post a hostile anti-Obama message on Twitter. In August, Buzzfeed compiled an alarming list of Twitter users who posted about killing the president.
In the wake of the 2012 national political conventions, the Twitter world has been exploding with commentary from reporters, comedians and vocal citizens alike. Between these sources, political remarks range from informative to downright inappropriate, as was the case with Douglas’ statement.
Mark Pazniokas, a political journalist for The Connecticut Mirror, has witnessed how Twitter has expedited public discourse throughout the current presidential election.
“In many ways, campaigns now unfold as continual conversations throughout the day, not a series of stories that break from news cycle to news cycle. Twitter is a major driver in this change,” Pazniokas said.
To help sort through the hordes of political tweets, Twitter has launched the Twitter Political Index, which compares users’ attitudes toward Republican hopeful Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama based on an average of two million election-related tweets per week.
The “Twindex,” as Twitter calls it, shows how swiftly public opinion can fluctuate, especially on social media sites such as Twitter.
When Paul Ryan spoke at the Republican National Convention Aug. 29, Romney held Twitter’s favor with a rating of 60 out of 100, compared to Obama’s score of 32. When Bill Clinton delivered a speech at the Democratic National Convention Sept. 5, Obama came out on top with a score of 50, while Romney’s Twitter approval dropped to a 10.
This wavering reflects the potentially shallow nature of turning to social media as a political resource, according to Pazniokas.
“The downside of Twitter is it is all about living in the moment,” he said. “What is happening now? Who is up? Who is down? There is little deeper context. In some ways, it distills the worst part of the political media.”
Although reading about politics on Twitter poses the risk of allowing the bigger picture to be drowned out by trivial details, Pazniokas encourages users to use the site constructively. For college students who have yet to vote in a presidential race, it is important to take into consideration the merit of sources inundating the Twittersphere.
“Follow a range of news sources and voices, as well as partisan tweeters or folks who are just being funny or snarky. In that respect, Twitter is like any other medium — it requires an effort by the consumer to be discerning,” he said.