As we all know, we grew up in the "ADD Generation." The world, and in particular the world of the online media, is so chock-full of sensory stimulants that it's hard to blame us for struggling to pay attention to one thing for more than a couple of seconds.
That said, there are a certain instances that demand our undivided attention. Case in point: the Vice Presidential debate (or if your'e a sports fan, the MLB Playoffs). If you're anything like me, anytime a major event airs on television, you like to boot up your computer and keep tabs on the pulse of the Twittersphere. That's the beauty of social media. How else are you going to fire off a pithy, 140 character remark about Romney firing Big Bird or Biden using old man-speech like "malarkey" mere seconds after it comes across the air?
Well, something interesting happened during Thursday's Vice Presidential debate. Twitter was abuzz alright, but not only with zingers about Paul Ryan's Eddie Munster hairdo. Oh no, Twitterites were burning up their keyboards to chime in on a topic much more important than tax loopholes or 47 percenters.
Politics, schmolitics. Who cares about any of that stuff when a video of a bus driver uppercutting a female passenger Mortal Kombat-style hits the web? A soon as WorldStarHipHop -- the video-hosting site that released the grainy, cellphone clip -- posted the video, Twitter virtually exploded. #VPdebate, #PaulRyan, and #Biden plummeted down the list of trending topics. All manner of mainstream media -- talk radio, news websites, cable news shows -- have since picked the video up and aired it ad nauseum.
Please don't get me wrong, this is by no means an indictment on our society. Who doesn't like a good viral video? (I love them, although I typically prefer when they don't end with a woman taking a vicious uppercut to the chin). I just find the timing of the overwhelming interest in this video fascinating.
Pundits and the media love to say things like, "We live in the most politically polarized time in history, blah, blah, blah." I'm not in a position to say whether or not that's true. But I can say the fact that this brutally violent video overshadowed a debate whose outcome could help determine the second most powerful man in the country proves that we live in one of the most attention deficient societies in history.
Certainly social networks like Twitter are valuable tools for communication and for keeping up with current information. However, the downside of ever-updating "feeds" is just that, they're constantly updating. This makes it even more difficult for an ADD society like ours to focus on the important things (debates) and weed out the superfluous (viral videos).
(In the interest if full disclosure, I didn't watch a second of the debate live. Game Four of the Yankees/Orioles series was on, and there was no chance I was missing that. More disclosure: I was following the debate on Twitter during the game, and I definitely checked out the bus driver video during a commercial between innings. Not my proudest moment.)