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Editorial: Social media: Twitter, Facebook are phenomenal, but ...
About politics and other thingsMay 2, 2012 | 1,363 views | Post a comment
There are rumors -- and then there are Internet rumors.
Rumors may be intentionally malicious, designed to deceive and defraud people, or they may be accidental, being more or less the result of casual conversation, otherwise known as gossip. Because of the extreme popularity of the Internet and the instantaneous nature of online conversation, the accidental rumor can become just as difficult to stop as the malicious rumor.
Yes, the Internet has come a long way, and social media has become commonplace with more than a half a billion users worldwide. Just a short couple of years ago, the Wilson County News was just beginning to explore Facebook and Twitter. Now they play an essential role in most newspaper operations. Known for their easy person-to-person communication, they are referred to collectively as “social media.” They are as indispensable to those in the business of communication as they are to individuals.
While Facebook and Twitter serve a useful, if not essential, purpose, they can be equally problematic. While they have become wildly popular, with almost every household participating, there is no control over contents on social media. It is truly the Wild West of the Internet, so the opportunity for abuse is there.
Some use their social networks to communicate with real friends, but others reach out to mere acquaintances or even strangers. Some build networks of thousands so that, once a message is out there, information is not controlled.
Facebook is a free, user-friendly social networking website. Twitter is a “microblogging” service that allows users to send and read messages up to 140 characters. A Twitter message is called a “tweet” and is extremely volatile. The dynamics of both Facebook and Twitter make communication so incredibly easy that, once a message goes out on one of these platforms, whether it’s true or not, it can be spread around the world in mere minutes.
The ease and quickness of these platforms makes it almost impossible to stop a rumor once it has begun, and the Internet is forever.
Social media can be used genuinely and responsibly to keep in contact with friends, family, and classmates. Still, the level of communication on these social networks consists of casual exchanges among friends. Thus, when a comment is made that “I heard that (you fill in the blank),” it can be repeated almost infinitesimally.
The lesson is, when it comes to news, Facebook may give you a leg up on getting the “latest,” but the latest may not be true at all. You will find, however, that Twitter and Facebook pages that are monitored by professional journalists are sources that can be trusted.
There are also websites such as Snopes that will confirm or deny an Internet rumor. This is a word of caution, then, to confirm information before sending it out to your network either by email or on your Twitter and Facebook pages. Verify before forwarding information. Social media are phenomenal but best used with this word of caution.
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