Let’s start by talking a little bit about its history. Contrary to every millennials belief, social media did not start with Facebook in 2004. Friendster, LinkedIn and Myspace were all very active at this point, but what they did not have was the technology to make their programming accessible 24/7: 3G was only widely available in 2003 ish and 4G in 2008, with the first iPhone released in 2007 (I’m ignoring BlackBerrys & Nokias because they were just too hard to use at that time!)
So, when Twitter launched in 2006 it was just in time for the technology revolution that we now all take for granted. The world does not sleep, at any time the next big story could break and we’re all posed to share the hell out of it when it reaches our screens. Is this a good thing? In some respects yes, we can share content within seconds and react quicker. I regularly share and then hear stories of people found that were missing, this cannot be a bad thing.
And let’s not forget internet hoax’, they’re ever so funny when uncovered, Pumpkin-spiced condom anyone? Did you know since January Facebook have been trying to eradicate inaccurate stories by monitoring viral content that users flag. Which is a little unfair I think: the users that share the content are now expected to also analyse and police it?
How does content go viral anyway and do you need to hire a sneezing panda to sell your fizzy drink? I don’t think there is any one formula that a PR agency could follow to assure a story spreads like wild fire. Great content x timing x hashtags x audience maybe? What I do know is Harry Style’s hair is always going to make headline news alongside natural disasters and royal babies.
But who is to blame for the inaccurate news stories that fill our social media feeds and is it actually that big a deal? Well I hate to be obvious, but the story has to start somewhere and I’ve never heard of a teenager from Doncaster breaking global news. So must it be the journalists’ fault? Are they so desperate to share news that they do not verify their story and facts first? Not incredibly professional.
The Boston bombings are a good example, with even bigwigs CNN having to retract statements after being pulled up by the FBI. And let’s not mention the poor missing student who was wrongly labelled as a terrorist and later found dead.
We cannot blame interesting, funny, sad, shocking, whatever, content for being shared via social networks. People are interested in a great story…
Tiger Woods hitting balls off of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, Cat vs Printer (brilliant) and Justin Bieber being reported dead most weeks (no comment). Come on just admit it, you love these crappy stories just as much as I do.
So, where does this leave us? Well social media and technology play a huge part in sharing information, whether it is a load of old stuff and nonsense or not. We no longer live in the dark ages and I personally think that our lives are enriched by information, regardless of how we get it. We’re all adults and should understand that social media is a fleeting glimpse of the real world.I hope that if some news that you’ve retweeted is that exciting, you’ll follow up by reading an actual printed newspaper… at which point the media should have got their facts straight!