Americans Engage More with Controversy than Tragedy: Another Look at Social Media Response to Giffords and Weiner Events

New York Times Reports Weiner Plans to Step Down

It’s fascinating to consider how Americans respond to two Democratic members of Congress and two different events within the confines of social media — more especially Twitter. As examined earlier this week, Rep. [wiki]Gabrielle Giffords[/wiki] may not have the same number of followers as Rep. Anthony Weiner. The Arizona Congresswoman who was shot in head during a Tucson meeting with constituents in early January while the New York Congressman tweeted and sexted inappropriate photos and content to women in what’s now called “Weinergate.”

As of 9 a.m. Eastern on June 16, Rep. Giffords’ Twitter following stood at 54,036 while Rep. Weiner’s had 81,205. When you consider the day before each of the ignition events that propelled these lawmakers into national news was at 6,706 and 43,133 respectively, Giffords commands a much larger following thanks to her heroic recovery from such a devastating injury with 9,258 more followers than Weiner.

Or does she?

Giffords is now on day 159 since the tragic day in Tucson. Weiner’s only 19 days into his situation and likely only a few days from resigning since his wife returned from an overseas trip yesterday.

If you normalize the numbers by removing all followers prior to the ignition events with “Day Zero” being the event itself — for Rep. Giffords, the Sunday shooting on Jan. 8 and for Rep Weiner, the tweeted photo of his bulging underwear — then an interesting trend emerges.

Initially, Americans followed Rep. Giffords in droves to keep up with how she did. However, by Day 3, the pace of her in following certainly followed a trend. Weiner’s continued revelations caused his increases to be less predictable and more sudden. Around  Day 10, he surpasses her and his more steep incline becomes apparent.

As these events continue to unfold — with Rep. Giffords’ release from the hospital yesterday and the possible resignation of Rep. Weiner — more changes will likely occur.

Some might suggest since Rep. Weiner’s ignition event occurred on Twitter that it corresponded to the greater propensity for Americans and others to follow him. That’s plausible. However, @RepWeiner remains inactive, as it has been since June 1. Meanwhile, @Rep_Giffords stayed active with updates on the Congresswoman’s condition from her staff.

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Michael Cheek

With more than 20 years of communication experience, Michael Cheek offers solid marketing expertise, especially in the digital frontier. He currently resides in Georgia but he's open to relocate anywhere the opportunities take him. Learn more at You can follow him on Twitter at and see more about his professional experience at Reach him via e-mail at

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