Monday, 14 March 2011

Idiocy on the Internet

The last few months has seen the Internet praised beyond belief. Corrupt and repressive regimes throughout the Middle-East challenged and toppled through the wonders of Facebook and Twitter - two sites which seem to be compared to the left and right hand of justice as of late. It was pointed out by a Tunisian woman on BBC's The World Tonight on Radio 4 that these were simply the catalyst. It was the Al Jazeera television news network that gave these Facebook groups legitimacy, these tweets a wider audience. The woman quite rightly pointed out,

"Nearly everyone has a TV in Tunisia, much fewer people have Facebook."

I don't want to take away from the ongoing success these mediums are having, but without mainstream media validating the online happenings, it is possible the movement that is still sweeping the middle east would have not had the impact it has had; restricted to those who use and have access to these technologies.

New media, the voice of the individual is talked up a lot nowadays. It is even suggested that independent by the twitter generation will overtake mainstream media, the BBCs and the CNNs, in the future.

In my opinion, those claims are cods-wallop.

Yes, any television show even remotely concerned with keeping up with the times has to have a "tweet us" section, but it is still these traditional form of media that validate what is said online, otherwise Twitter just lives up to its name.

A case in point is the death of Michael Jackson. People were tweeting about the fact he had died way before anyone had announced it. It was famously broken by the celebrity and entertainment blog, TMZ, but even then the mainstream news knew that it was their job to wait until a official announcement. If a blog breaks news, you have to take it with a pinch of salt.

I believe this is the future of the traditional media providers; the calm voice, telling everyone to shut up until official people speak.

I've been thinking about this because at 10 o'clock this morning I received a text that told me a nuclear reactor had blown up in Japan and I was going to get showered with radioactive rain within the next 48 hours. I proceeded to forward the text onto anyone I knew warning them to stay indoors, wear a mackintosh and rub iodine on their thyroids.

Texts sent, I began to question what I had just done; sending the whole city of Nanjing into blind panic because of one text. I got online, checked BBC, and lo and behold we were fine. No acid rain, no nuclear explosion, just a bit of leakage and people being paranoid of nuclear energy in America. There was even a government statement from the Philippine government warning about the exact text I had just received that was circulating through the Asian expat community.

Quickly send another text apologising for the panic I had caused.

The fact is community based media is all well and good when it comes to commentary and gossip but when it comes to hard facts and investigative journalism, Twitter, Blogger and even shows like mine on YouTube are way behind the professionals.