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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health care debate goes viral

Drama unfolded on Sunday as the health care reform debate jumped from Capitol Hill to television, computer, and cell phone screens across the nation. On a weekend traditionally dominated by NCAA basketball coverage, it is hard to believe that C-SPAN, FOX News, MSNBC, and CNN ratings were through the roof as many Americans skipped March Madness to watch the cable news networks’ live coverage of the U.S. House of Representatives health care reform debate.

Social networking sites were also buzzing with lively debates as friends commented on statuses and posted links to coverage. At 9 p.m. on Sunday – when the House passed the health care bill – 2.05% of tweets included the health care reform hash tag (#hcr). While initially this figure might not seem significant, when Tiger Woods announced his return to the Masters on March 16, only 0.062% of tweets mentioned Tiger.

Over the past few months, it’s been fun to follow tweets about the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and the Bachelor, but this most recent trending topic could be downright inspiring. At a time when many people lament the demise of the media’s ability to inform the public, millions of people are receiving more information and sharing their opinions about important political issues than ever before through Twitter and Facebook. Social networking has quickly become the fastest growing method of civic engagement – a trend I hope sticks around for good.