Megan was a Justmeans staff writer in the social media section. She is fascinated by the social media world, particularly how it can be used for the social good, and is passionate about using social media to motivate, mobilize and inspire. Her additional passion for the environment spills over into her writing and she is very interested in how the social media world can impact social action and ...
Just the facts, ma'am; social media style
Social media is changing the way we consume information, report facts, even what we consider to be facts. This change is happening in ways we can't eve measure, in ways we haven't even thought about, and in ways we can't totally control. It is, of course a good thing, to cooperate and collaborate (all I ever need to know I learned in Kindergarten), but has anyone else checked up on the thousands of fragments of information out there we're taking as "facts"? Especially on sites like Wikipedia (although there is controversy about whether to classify the collaborative, digital encyclopedia 'social media'), facts and figures can not only be difficult to clarify or verify, but even difficult to identify in the first place.That is, where two or more are gathered, there, too, will many opinions be. Unformed opinions, half-informed opinions, opinions that really play nicer with "feelings" are a-fly in groups of people, and that's not usually a bad thing. Traditional media had at least some stopgap measures to guard against the viral spread of misinformation: they had, for one, fact checkers. According to a NY Times Magazine article published in its August 22, 2010 edition, Virginia Heffernan was actually employed as a fact checker for the New Yorker, using stone-age methods like phoning up business owners to verify restaurant ambiance as it was reported in a recently run article, interviewing a recent interviewee on exactly how she spelled her last name (and, of course, the pronunciation as well), and the like.
Now, though, there is no way to verify all the information that's out there and accessible to anyone who can to a computer. Social media encourages the mass production of "information" at a break-neck speed with which no one can keep up. News is essential (this is why blogs are so important [and why that thought keeps coming up!]), of course. The problem comes when people rely on social media sites as their sole source for correct information. My article about Google's new Call Phone, for example, was initially published with at least one embarrassing mistake. "But I did my research," I frustratingly exclaimed as the mistake was pointed out: Apple doesn't own "Call Phone", Google does. Obviously. Except to those hardcore Wikipedia users. The Wiki page for Google's new product "Call Phone" (called "free phone chat" by The Times, which the Wiki article didn't report, either) definitely listed the new product as being owned by Apple.
Wikipedia's pages are some of the most popular of social media outlets in the world. Anyone (with sources) can post a write-up, so everyone can live out their dream of becoming a reporter, or at least feel as though they are contributing to the on-surface glamorous world of news. With no editors to poke, prod and turn down work, Wikipedia, among other social media sites, can be filled with uncertain data and questionable facts. It does fulfill one of social media's highest priorities, though: it's quick. That's how the site got its name: 'wiki' is the Hawaiian word for "fast." While that's in keeping with social media trends, no wonder Wiki articles can be a bit off base at times. Implicit here might be a call for business ideas that clear up the "fact" world of social media; the implication here is that business goes better when facts are correct, even in the social media scene.
Photo credit: RonM