The presidential election campaign of 2016 is certainly one for the record books, and as it turns out so too is social media’s involvement in the second presidential debate.
Sunday’s second of three debates between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was co-moderated by ABC’s Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper, taking place in a town hall format.
In addition to questions emanating from the moderators, queries for the candidates came from individuals in social media circles as well as citizen participants (selected by the Gallup organization).
Typically the second debate in a presidential campaign fails to draw a bigger television audience than the initial one, and this debate was apparently no exception.
Not so in the social media universe.
The second presidential debate was the most-tweeted political debate in the 10 years of Twitter’s existence, with more than 17 million debate-related tweets being sent. Trump had the lion’s share of Twitter talk with 64 percent of the conversation.
In contrast, Hillary had 36 percent of the conversation.
Records were also broken on Facebook, where the second presidential debate dominated the content of the social media giant. More than 92.4 million posts, comments, and likes relating to the debate proceedings were generated by 19.8 million U.S. users of Facebook.
Here again Trump fared better than Hillary, garnering 76 percent of the Facebook conversation as compared to Hillary’s 24 percent.
The explanation for the extraordinary digital participation is clear: Trump’s presence on social media is enormous as are the number of his Twitter followers and Facebook likes.
There is, however, another factor relating to the second presidential debate that served to rev up the social media participation and enhance the public’s curiosity. It is the same thread woven throughout the fabric of the stories told in stage performances, movies, television shows, and the like; that being, the element of drama.
The lead-up to the second debate featured a video containing unaired portions of a 2005 interview in which Trump made some disrespectful and lewd remarks that pertained to women, comments for which he later made a series of apologies. The nature of the interview content fed the hyper-competitive 24-hour cable news cycle in which Trump played the main character.
It is a well-known fact that in Hollywood stories give birth to screenplays, and good screenplays can be broken down into component parts.
One of the essential parts of a good screenplay is contained deep within the timeline of the story as the narrative draws closer to its climax or ending. The scene or sequence, which is frequently referred to as the “Dark Night of the Soul,” is the point at which all hope appears to be vanishing.
A longtime teacher of screenwriting, Michael Hauge, describes the moment in the following way: “ . . . something must happen to your hero that makes it seem to the audience that all is lost…disastrous events leave your hero with only one option: he must make one, last, all-or-nothing, do-or-die effort . . . ”
The second presidential debate was Trump’s “Dark Night of the Soul.”
In this drama, enhanced by social media’s presence, the protagonist secured the victory and may even have altered the trajectory of the campaign.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
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