The Real World Social Media Style
I was obsessed with MTV Real World when it first came out in 1992. At the time I felt it was original, cutting-edge and thought provoking. In my teenage, worldly optimistic view, I was enthralled with the idea that it could change opinions and in some way promote tolerance. Exposing people, that would otherwise never make each other acquaintance, and the potential of those encounters to cross racial, ethnic, political, religious and sexual orientation boundaries. On top of that, becoming friends with someone, who under normal circumstances, you would have turned your nose up at and the realization that these people have more in common with you then you would have thought. Of course, there was the drama, the crushes, and the cliques that may have formed, but in those first few seasons of MTV Real World, in some way, it did feel real.
So what does MTV Real World have to do with social media? Well what happens when 5 French journalists are picked to live in a house together and work together with no access to their cell phones, televisions, or the Internet. Their only access to the outside world, and the only source of information from which they could use to report, was from the Twitter and Facebook social media sites. It is MTV Real World, social media style.
The Twitter Social Networking and Facebook Social Media Experiment
The five journalists hailed from radio stations in Canada, France, Belgium, and Switzerland. Helene Jouan, the Senior Editor at France Inter (one of the radio stations involved with the project) talked about the goal of the experiment as a means to examine the myths associated with social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. “Our aim is to show that there are different sources of information, and to look at the legitimacy of each of these sources,” says Jouan.
The Twitter and Facebook experiment, which took place earlier this month, has gotten more buzz as the journalists have emerged from the French countryside house where the operation took place. In a recent interview with NPR, Janic Tremblay (a reporter from Radio Canada) when asked what he learned, stated, “You are…who you follow. It means the people you are following are giving you their perspective on the world…Twitter can be the biggest news agency in the world, because each one of us can feed it with a computer or a smart phone.”
As journalists, they could easily tap into their network of other reliable journalists. In this way, they could confirm a story’s merit, and in a very short amount of time, get detailed information on exactly what was happening. What became key, was making sure they were connecting with Tweeters who cultivated legitimate information about a subject, and not Tweeters who just give their opinions. In addition, they found that the journalists who spend the most time on Twitter, and whose stories get retweeted the most, become in a sense, authorities on the subject.
So are Twitter and Facebook a Good Source for News?
In addition to the speed at which information can come in, the amount of updates on the development of a situation is where Twitter can be superior to traditional media outlets. Here are a few examples of such situations:
- In India, Twitter was used to get information on the terrorist attacks in November 2008. The Tweets revealed what was happening on the ground and allowed those without access to televisions, to attain information that they would have otherwise been without.
- Twitter was an important tool for getting information to the world after the Haiti earthquake and it help push aid and relief to the region.
- Just last week, when an earthquake struck Chile and a potential tsunami was bound for multiple coastlines, twitter was relaying information that could have been critical to savings lives.
There are plethora of examples like the ones above and there will be many more to follow. In light of our changing world, it would be wise for journalists and media outlets to embrace Twitter social networking and Facebook social media, and see it as an opportunity to supplement traditional media methods. If media outlets spend the time to legitimize themselves on Twitter and Facebook as reliable resources for real-time information, they can become the Twitter authorities.
Where Will You Turn for News?
Unfortunately MTV Real World has become more about, what happens when 7 incredibly attractive, evidently promiscuous, and obviously grouped by the network to be doomed for drama, are picked to live in a house together, work together, and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start behaving like actors all vying to get picked up by Hollywood, and less about changing opinions. So instead of finding out what is happening in the real world watching MTV Real World, I would much rather turn my attention to Twitter and Facebook and see if I can find some good, reliable birds to follow.
What is your take on Twitter and Facebook as sources for reliable, news worthy information? Do you think the followers you have are reputable?