Whatever the political gains or losses that flow from Wednesday’s Presidential candidates’ debate, the event drew a huge audience that's been buzzing over it at an unprecedented level.
Viewership among the major broadcast and cable networks was upwards of 58 million people, ten percent more than watched the first Presidential debate in 2008.
Social media traffic reached record numbers for a political event -- more than 10 million Tweets, eclipsing the Twitter traffic of all the 2008 debates combined -- making it the most Tweeted-about political event in history.
Facebook postings also were running fast, furious, and funny – turning the political process into a communal carnival of "infotainment."
Wicked humor included the online likes of “Swapped Hair”, as photo-shopped, two-shot of the candidates showing President Obama with a full, jet-black head of hair and Mitt Romney with a graying buzz cut.
Then there were phony Twitter accounts in the name of “Silent Jim Lehrer” and “Where’s Jim Lehrer?”, the debate moderator who was cruelly dissed for losing his grip on the flow and timing of the event.
"It's kind of a different way of looking at elections now," says Poway resident Robin Bjornsson, interviewed Thursday in downtown San Diego. “I’m going to be watching the next (debate), for sure.”
The instant analysis by a universe of Twitter and Facebook users who can’t keep their opinions to themselves tended to be passionate, as confirmed by NBC 7's quick-response digital media team.
“It's visceral,” said NBC 7 web editor Lauren Steussy. “And whoever has the most instantaneous response, the most witty remarks, often gets praised the most on Twitter."
Added Michelle Wayland, NBC 7’s social media manager: “People tend to be more honest on social media than they might if they were in a room full of people.”
Twitter traffic peaked at 6:53 p.m. Pacific time; apparently social media mavens on the East Coast, three hours ahead, were ready for lights-out.
"Big audience last night, that's where they had the impact," said political consultant John Dadian, who says the rise of online participation and reaction poses more of a Brave New World for campaign strategists to calculate and try to conquer.
"Well, I just can’t even imagine what it will be like four years from now,” Dadian marveled. “Because in our short lifespan, the increase in technology really has evolved so much."