The State of the Union address is an important event for this country’s society, and it has been for years. But, the key difference recently has been the way we watch the speech—some of us don’t even have to watch it at all! In the era of instantaneous news and messaging, social media sites like Twitter have made it more convenient than ever to get not only the president’s speech, but the reaction to it as well as even more information about the points that have been made.
A majority of today’s smartphone users have some sort of social media account that gives them even more access to information that can also include video and other media. On Twitterfall, which acts as a real-time feed of trending tweets, this year’s State of the Union ushered thousands of responses by people all over the country. That all can get overwhelming with more than 50 tweets per second. In fact, there were reports of more than a million tweets during the State of the Union this year.
Only ten years ago, most people traditionally sat in front of their home television sets (possibly still using tube technology) to watch George W. Bush give his State of the Union speech. It was a matter of planning and being somewhere near a television screen; you had to physically move yourself to a certain location in order to watch it. That is not the case anymore. As one Twitter user tweeted just as the event was about to begin, “I usually watch this from my house, but tonight I’m watching it from the #whitehouse #SOTU.”
Twitter users were significant in providing coverage of this year’s State of the Union. Whether they were reciting parts of the president’s speech or remarking on House Speaker John Boehner’s lack of enthusiasm, users tweeted the speech to their peers—or at least the most important parts of it. Various posts of live video were added among the quotes and witty comments, as well as diagrams and other relevant facts to such topics as unemployment and domestic oil production. Even before the day of the speech, the link #SOTU provided many sources to information regarding what the State of the Union was going to address this year.
With something so media-intensive, it is important to have the ability to interact during the event because it opens the opportunity for more information. It may be possible that over the course of time, and as technology like smartphones become more pervasive, such Internet sites as Twitter could become a primary medium of distribution, and not just for the State of the Union, but also for events like the presidential elections or even the Olympics.