Social Media: gift or trap?

I have previously mentioned that Twitter can be a dangerous tool of social media and recent events have shown that. I was lucky to have a lecture today that spoke deeply into whether social media is a gift or trap. I am very torn between the two views and even after the lecture I still felt torn. I am hoping that through some recapping on this blog post I will come to some conclusion.

Social media is quite a broad word and a lot of people mean different things when they speak about it. Though out my blogs I am concerning social media as both the platform and activity. The platform being Facebook/Twitter/A Blog etc. and then the activity as an act of communication e.g tweeting.

Twitter has become a something similar to a bushfire in the past few weeks and the mainstream media can not ignore it. Any stories driven by Twitter recently has caused a lot of talk and controversy and if the mainstream media fails to report on it, they look cowardly. There is this bizarre pressure for main stream media to keep up with social media and interact with it.

Mass media may consider itself above the blogosphere, but it is in fact hopelessly influenced by it. If people are tweeting about it over there, it must be reported on – how many tweets are cited in the media daily now? – or knowingly acknowledged.” Dan Sabbagh, The Guardian, November 2012

It is evident that a lot of journalists use Twitter as a tool for sources. I do not see a problem in this, I just see a problem if the journalist does not do further research into a story to make sure it is trustworthy.

Like Dan Sabbagh stated, tweets are cited in the media now and also I do believe it sometimes becomes the news agenda. An example of a news story today:


This story gives a good example of when twitter has become the news agenda. A twitter using quitting Twitter has become a new and trending news story. Obviously in this particular news story (click on image if you want to read the whole Guardian story), there is a significant amount of context behind this story, which has made it into something bigger than it would have been if there had not been any past stories on Sally Bercow. Even after a few hours of this news story was released, Twitter spread the news through a large amount of retweeting. People have already started blogging their views on the story!

The characteristic that make Twitter work are:

  1. It’s an open environment
  2. You can follow anyone from your close neighbour to Barack Obama
  3. You can read anything

With this is mind, in our lecture we were asked to split into two groups and one had to be FOR and the other had to be AGAINST this statement:

“Twitter is a great real-time tool for distributing opinion but it is no replacement for curated media coverage ..” Keen 2009.

I was in the tougher group of being AGAINST the statement. I say tougher because I personally agree with Keen’s statement.

But here are my 3 main arguments AGAINST the statement, so it could be a replacement for curated media coverage:

  1. Good place for breaking news
  2. Sets news agenda through trending topics
  3. Easy to access information you want to see

Here are some other journalists views on Twitter:

I’ve lost count of the times people – including a surprising number of colleagues in media companies – roll their eyes at the mention of Twitter. “No time for it,” they say. “Inane stuff about what twits are having for breakfast. Nothing to do with the news business.

Well, yes and no. Inanity – yes, sure, plenty of it. But saying that Twitter has got nothing to do with the news business is about as misguided as you could be.” Alan Rusbridger, Guardian Editor, November 2010

And then one of my favourites:

Journalists should view Twitter as a collective intelligence system that provides early warnings about trends, people and news.” Alfred Hermida, 2010.

I believe overall Twitter is a positive media platform but if we tap into it and use it in the wrong manner it can create haphazard results. It is a real gift which has been introduced in the media world, but if treated badly it can become a trap.


Posted on November 20, 2012, in Twitter and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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