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.


Michael Markman said...

Thanks for a balanced view on this. It's a great topic worthy of a much better comment than I have time to leave. I always appreciate your perspective. Hope I remember to come back and leave a better comment after I've turned in my assignments.

Michael Markman said...

Recommended readiing on this topic:

Jeje said...

I did the exact same thing! A friend of mine sent me that text but I wasn't quick to believe it. I asked him where he got his information and he replied, "It's on ABS-CBS (a news network here in the Philippines), you can even check CNN and BBC."

Who was I to argue with that?
I didn't bother to check his facts and proceeded to forward the text to all my friends, aggravating the panic that had already ensued. On the news later that night, they confirmed it was a hoax. But the damage was done. Schools dismissed their students early because their parents were demanding that they be sent home, people fluxed into pharmacies not wanting to run out of Betadine, some house went on lock down. It was insane.

Makes you wonder through, who the hell sent that first text?

LaDitsterNo1 said...

Social media is 'the pinch of salt' for news-media. We (a collective that includes you) provide the perspectives and opinions that can get hidden(or forgotten) by official news sources. We cannot rely on official press releases(often from government) to make up the truth. Letting ourselves believe only one form of propaganda is likely just as idiotic.