Confession time: I LOVE watching important moments in history through the lens of social media.  There is nothing better than seeing what people all over the world are thinking as the events unfold before each of us at the same time.  At around 6:56 PM, I popped in my headphones, found a live feed of the speech and waited for the fun to begin.  I opened up my twitter feed and decided to see what the trending topics were at the moment, hoping people cared enough about the events that something of meaning would be trending.  My hopes were in vain, as I was greeted with the following:

Out of 9 organic trending topics, only one had to do with presidential address.  The rest had to do with blaming Obama, Pop Culture (Miley Cyrus still?  Really?) Sports, and television.
After seeing what was trending nationally, I decided to see what was trending on a more local scale, hoping that we here in Utah would be better citizens and more informed.
About the same as the national trends, although interestingly enough #PresidentialAddress was at the top of the trending topics in SLC.  A few of the topics were the same as the national ones and of course we here in Utah were all still talking about the new iphone that was announced this morning.
Surely if Utah cared about things, other cities with different political makeup and demographics should feel similar, right?  I decided to look up a three other major cities to see what was trending there, and found some interesting things.  These cities were New York, Los Angeles and Houston.
#PresidentialAddress was not trending in NY, however #Syria was at the top of the list.  More on that particular hashtag later.  We still see that pop culture trends (including Miley Cyrus) still populated the rest of the list here.
On the other end of the country, not even one of the trending topics had to do with the presidential address which was about to being.  Ironically Miley Cyrus continued to top the list along with Sons of Anarchy.  The bottom two topics had to do with the soccer game currently being played.
Hoping to find some patriotic americans who would be interested in the affairs of their great country, I turned to Texas.  What I found was that not one of the trending topics in this city was related to the speech.  Instead, it was populated with sports posts, movies and consumerism. 

My brief examination of trending topics across the nation was not even close to comprehensive, but it did provide a little bit of context for what I would see for the next hour or so.

I went back to the twitter search box and decided to dive right into the good stuff and searched for the feed for #Syria.  The first post in the feed was this:

I clicked on their link, and what I found was trove of information that was incredibly pertinent to this assignment.  The linked page looked like this:
I couldn’t have been happier.  When I took this screenshot, it was 6:58 PM, two minutes before the speech was about to begin. Sidenote, remember the number above; later I’ll post a screenshot of the amount of tweets at the end of the speech. 

I scrolled down the page, hoping to see more awesome stuff to screencap and follow during the speech.
The map of the US was a live visual which placed a red dot in the location when someone discussed Syria.  They only stayed a few seconds before fading away, but grew bigger as people in a close geographical area discussed at the same time.  I was hoping to see this map just go crazy.  The pace picked up a little bit, but not very much.  Most of the dots also tended to appear in the same geographical regions.  I took a few screenshots throughout and after the speech to show as a comparison:



What were people saying?  After all, that is kind of the point of this analysis, right?

Just before the speech started, I pulled up my personal facebook page and posted a question, hoping to gather how my circle of “friends” felt about the speech and situation as a whole.  I hadn’t seen any chatter on my facebook feed about the speech, so I decided to instigate some myself.  I didn’t want it to turn into a philosophical debate (and was prepared to delete the post if it snowballed into that), but I was hoping that people who read and commented on the post would be genuine and understand my purpose in asking.  I was pleased with the discussion that resulted.  


The first reply simply stated “I wish I knew the solution.”  Sometimes the most powerful words are those which cannot be spoken.


Other replies were comical: 

Kuwait a minute. Yemen if Iraq up this war debt then Iran into Syria’s trouble? Oman can someone tell me if this Israel?”“Syriasly?”


The majority of the replies, however came from those people most directly connected to the consequences of the situation: those with direct ties to the military.  I found their commentary to be very powerful, almost being able to feel their worry as I read their words: 


US needs to just hang tight and not react to this. It’s silly in my opinion.”
“My soldiers need a break from fighting the bad guys. Can’t we all just get along?!”

My post was the only thing I saw about Syria on my facebook feed all night.  Interesting how quickly we can be lulled into apathy.  I guess all it takes is a new, disgusting Miley Cyrus video of her naked on a wrecking ball to distract us from having truly meaningful discussions.

Anyways, back to twitter.  Here are some screenshots of tweets throughout (and after) the speech using the official hashtag #syria:


Here’s my brief analysis of what I saw on twitter.  People don’t want another war. People do not trust our elected leaders. People are sick of hypocrisy and arbitrary “red lines”

The entire purpose of tonight’s speech to the nation was to convince a skeptical public about why we need to do something we don’t want to do.  Unfortunately, it seemed that the publics mind was made up long before this speech actually began (at least the public who post in the twittersphere).

Just before the 7 PM hour ended, I took another screenshot of the tweet count at the top of the page.  Here’s how much it had grown in 60 minutes time:


I still don’t know what the best thing for us to do is as a country. I honestly can see both sides of the argument, with all of their flaws.  I hope that no more innocent lives will be lost due to military action or chemical weapons usage.  I think I agree with @carleebrian (who I’ve never met):

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9 thoughts on “#Syria

  1. I'm completely shocked that in LA Miley Cyrus still is over what was currently happening. Lives are changing by every word Obama had to say and those in LA just want to talk about Miley? We need to wake up as a nation!

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  2. I love that you used Al Jazeera America as a resource. They incorporate a lot of social media by the way of “The Stream”, and it's actually done in an insightful way. I thought the contrast of the before and after numbers of people talking about Syria on Twitter was cool, but my favorite part was the map. That is an awesome visual representation of where the most involved people are (not that it was really shocking). This was a super comprehensive post, so kudos to you!

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  3. I enjoyed reading your post. You did a very thorough job of covering the social media from several different angles. I thought that you did an excellent job of trying to see each side without prejudice. I think you were right in your comment about how the people who may have a stake in a possible war have definite opinions. Of course that may be all of our sons! Just really well done…..

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  4. I feel fortunate to have read your analysis of the evening during President Obamas speech. The amount of information you were able to “view” and extrapolate in such a condensed time frame is astounding to me. I'm very new and green when is comes to much of the social media buzz.. so the task of watching twitter, and other social network feeds as evenings events unfolded was nothing less that intimidating to me.. but you not only collected, but laid out in a very organized manner, a cross section of the chatter out there, and your commentary was thorough, concise and unbiased. It was a refreshing read and very honest and well spoken. I appreciate the way you were able to accomplish all of this.. and what a great report of how the evening went down in the world of social chit, chat.. Its a sad tale when we as a nation (or world, for that matter) seem to be so easily distracted by fluff and stuff that we miss the important things. Thanks for taking the time, to write your thoughts and observations so well.

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