CHARLOTTE -- President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney talked jobs, health care and social security Wednesday night and the Twittersphere erupted. The 90 minutes of the debate sparked 10.3 million tweets, according to the Twitter Government & Politics team.
"With the debate last night, people didn't have to wait for the next day to have this kind of water cooler conversation," said Bob Page, the web editor for Queens University of Charlotte. "They could have that conversation in real time, simultaneous with the event itself."
But the biggest spikes included spats between the candidates and the debate's moderator, PBS' Jim Leherer.
"There are certain moments that tend to engage people in a different way," said Page. And, those moments have more emotional impact than say a dry discussion of policy."
One undeniable spike was Romney's mention of funding for PBS.
"I'm gonna stop the subsidy to PBS," he said. "I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS. I like Big Bird. I like you, too."
With that, the parody account @FiredBigBird was created. It gained nearly 25,000 followers in just 12 hours.
But the comments didn't stop at Big Bird, the blog site Tumblr used the debate video to spoof the candidates and moderator.
"They can be snarky about it, they can be super super intelligent about it but they can now influence the conversation in a way that simply hasn't been possible," said Page.
He said the volume of tweets and posts, whether legitimate analysis or sarcasm, show the level of engagement this election cycle is unprecedented and could lead to more voters at the polls.
"Social media certainly can't hurt it," said Page.
That question will be answered on Nov. 6.