By: Will Hardison
As a public relations professional, social media has permeated many aspects of my line of work, like capturing fun moments for a client’s Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. and sometimes to craft an online persona that depicts my client as a credible source in their industry. A relatively new convention, social media has become a worldwide pastime, news outlet, and resource to keep up with what friends and family are doing on a daily basis. Almost everyone engages in the use of social media in one form or another, including myself. However, most of us, unless you work in the realm of media, fail to realize the impact that social media can have on news outlets.
As I was browsing Bloomberg Politics, I came across this article. The article details how Russia employed Facebook and other social media platforms to spread fake and damaging information on U.S. policy. Now, whether the investigation yields empirical evidence is an entirely different topic of discussion, one that I won’t delve into. It isn’t my aim to dive into politics, but social media could potentially lead to another form of international espionage, something that no one could have foreseen.
How does this relate to news? Misinformation spreads like a wildfire, and in a world of information overload it’s easy to start believing shifty sources, especially if citizen journalism comes into play. The rise of citizen journalism has shaped social media into a platform where anyone can share their views and accounts or use it for social networking. Citizen journalism has also shaped the news. The raw footage captured on mobile devices can show audiences what some news sources won’t, which is a great avenue for the public to share real-time footage of cultural events taking place around the globe.
However, one of the problems we face with social media news coverage is that reporters and the citizen journalists race to be the first to report on something and will often post or tweet about an event before they have all of the facts, leading to the dissemination of inaccurate information. I’d like to use the shooting at Virginia’s on King that happened a few weeks ago. As reporters and citizen journalists raced to be the first to report on the event, someone tweeted an inaccurate detail that caused the CVS on the corner of King Street and George Street and the College of Charleston’s Department of Communication office to close and go on lockdown because someone tweeted that there was a shooter near the campus. These actions were needless and could have been avoided if all of the facts about the shooting had been gathered prior to the tweet. Twitter is great for live updates on events, but it’s not always a reliable source.
Now that I’ve written a bit of an exposé on social media, I’d love to highlight the ways in which it has shaped the news and daily life for the better. I believe that using social media to show, and sometimes expose, real-time events is something that we cannot ignore, or should ignore. It gives us a look into what’s happening behind the scenes. Twitter has become quite the popular avenue for live updates on social and cultural events and news updates. Instagram has allowed us to share our daily adventures, what we’re eating, and whom we’re with. Facebook allows us to share status updates so that family and friends can gain insight into what’s happening in our lives. Social media has become a powerful force and it here to stay, fortunately for some and unfortunately for others. My word of advice is to think before you post on social media.