Social media changes debating game

Viewers can react before media can influence

INDIANAPOLIS - Social media use has grown exponentially since the last presidential election, giving the public unprecedented opportunity to react and interact in real-time.

Erik Deckers, a social media expert, blogger and author, said the number of Twitter users worldwide is at 500 million. 

"And at least 10 percent of Americans are using Twitter, that's a lot of people," Deckers said. "And when you look at, at least half the people in this country on Facebook, that's a lot of people who are going to be talking during the debates."

Deckers said Twitter makes it possible for users to provide immediate feedback before hearing any analysis from pundits in Washington and elsewhere. 

Kristina Horn Sheeler, a communications professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, said increased social media interaction is an opportunity for the public.

"I hope it has positive qualities because of that opportunity to get the electorate engaged in the discussion before the media has the opportunity to analyze it," Sheeler said.

Positive change aside, Deckers has a word of caution: Tweeters beware -- once you tweet, it's there for the world to see. 

"The information and the attitude I share on my Twitter account and on my Facebook page is how my friends are going to know me," he said. "So if I'm going to be a jerk about the other guy and the other side, that might be the first thing my friends remember about me in a couple of months."

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