October 04, 2012, 7:38 AM — The first presidential debate lit up social networks Wednesday night, even staggering Twitter throughout the one-and-a-half-hour debate.
President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney faced off in their first debate before the presidential election next month. And it wasn't just a big night for the two candidates. It also was a big night for the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google+ .
While social networks played a role in the 2008 presidential election, they've taken an even bigger part this year.
That's not surprising since, for instance, Facebook had 100 million monthly users in 2008 and today it has 955 million. Using social networks is an effective way to send a single message out to potentially millions of eyeballs.
People are increasingly turning to social networks to share their opinions on the candidates and the issues. However, the individual campaigns also are using Facebook and Twitter, which set up a dedicated page for the debate.
So when it came time for the first debate to air, users split their focus between watching the verbal sparring and tweeting their reactions with criticism, cheers and jokes.
Twitter's Government and Politics team noted early on that tweets about the debate were coming in fast and furiously. "We're only minutes into the event and have already passed 2 million Tweets about this debate over the past 24 hours. #debates," tweeted @gov.
The heavy load on Twitter began well before the debate kicked off. Twitter noted, "In the last 24 hours there have now been twice as many Tweets about tonight's debate than there were about all of the #debates in 2008."
The heavy load took its toll on the microblogging site.