Twittersphere: The NEW News

No one understands how hesitant I was to title this post what it is. You have to understand, we, as a generation have been conditioned to believe that twitter is for fun, casual, and NEVER reputable. Imagine the world’s disbelief when the greatest political debate platform wasn’t a town hall in a city ripe for tourism and money making, but it was actually none other than twitter. I know what you’re thinking. Are we really in a place in society where our political leaders are engaging in similar social media feuds that our celebrities made famous? Are our political leaders and celebrities becoming the same people? (Of course they are. Ask Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

A 2011 Clay Shirky foresaw social media influence in current events. “The idea that media, from the Voice of America to samizdat, play a supporting role in social change by strengthening the public sphere echoes the historical role of the printing press.” (Shirky, The Political Power of Social Media, 6) So if  we as a society have not completely disregarded the legitimacy of our politicians who engage in twitter debates [and instead, we elect them] then why have we not regarded twitter as a reputable research platform where literal history is being made every day?

It’s also Clay Shirky who recognizes, however, that our progression as a society to be more apt towards twitter and other social media platforms as reputable sources is limited by our ability to communicate cross-cultural ideals and have a “single community” social media presence. In his 2002 “Communities, Audiences, and Scales“ “With such software,the obvious question is “Can we get the best of both worlds? Can we have a medium that spreads messages to a large audience, but also allows all the members of that audience to engage with one another like a single community?”(Shirky, Communities, Audiences, and Scales) The answer seems to be”No.”” Shirky talks about the difference between an audience and a community and how we struggle with connections online because we can’t truly connect with each other in the way a community needs to, therefore our messages don’t reach people in an effective way. Since we cannot reach each other in a community aspect, we cannot connect. This limits the depth of social media connectivity and therefore we cannot explore the full potential of social media transforming them from shallow communication portals, to reputable in depth communication channels.

In efforts to take twitter beyond the threshold of just another social media platform, we have to acknowledge its limited audience. Because twitter is a free speech medium of sorts, it’s banned in many countries which allows mainstream news outlets to take the lead in coverage and access. “Overall, mainstream media appears to have more even coverage, with less clustering around major cities” (Mapping the Global Twitter Heartbeat, Twitter versus mainstream news media.) With Twitter really coming into it’s prime as a social media platform, we have to recognize it’s not prominent on accessibility the way traditional news coverage is which goes back to our inability to reach each other to make twitter more effective.

So what will it take to verify twitter? We have to acknowledge the evolution of news media. If our politicians can utilize the platform to discuss matters of the country, we should be able to take our news from the site. Information falls directly from the mouths, or the hands, of the people we are reporting on. Next we address the communication gap and accessibility for all people across the globe in efforts to take the Twittersphere from an audience, to a community. If we make these changes, we can evolve how twitter is viewed and maybe, how social media is used in future elections. (Social media was a mess due to the this being the first election social media was utilized in this way. Traditions have to start somewhere!)Twitter-South-Africa-Social-Network-Social-Channel-Social-Media

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Twitter Is Bigger Than 140 Characters

The United States 2016 Presidential election was a mess. No matter what side of the isle voters were on, there were more reasons to not vote for that party’s candidate than ones that reassured the best outcome. Obviously in hindsight, the outcome was one that has yielded very little universal success or minimal praise. It (in my opinion) will go down in history as a defining election that will frame all campaigns in the future, especially the implementation of online tools and their abilities to reach the American public.

In the article Audience, Scale, and the Political Power of Social Media, there are many references to the influences of shared information through online mediums. One particular point that fit very well within our recent election was the distinction between activists (activism) and social media activists (“slacktivists.”) This point is made to first show a negative of social media as it relates to activism, and then proves that it is also a positive when used correctly. The negative is pretty obvious, those who are looking for causes and support social change, but don’t want to give much effort, can just “support” all they want through pages and posts (and feel some satisfaction from it.) This “slacktivism” is what much of the left participated in leading up to the election, gaining satisfaction and attributing effort to only being active online. This was a major fault, and one that was learned quickly. The positive of using social media for activism is the efficient and easy-to-use features of these sites that allow for the organization of events and meetings. Now that much of the adult population is connected online (especially by smartphones), it is now much easier to carry out demonstrations or other activist events with little planning or resources. After the election, the same left, that had been most active online, began to assemble and demonstrate in huge numbers. I think that if these people had been able to see the difference between the two types of activism, this election may have turned out much differently.

In the article Did Twitter Kill the Boys on the Bus? Searching for a better way to cover a campaign, there is a unique quote about the shift in Twitter’s role in political campaigns. “Twitter is where that central conversation is taking place. It’s not that Twitter is where you’re discussing the news. So much of it is actually happening on Twitter. It was just the central stream of the conversation for everyone.” This quote by Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith really demonstrates the power of Twitter for news outlets. The article discusses how major networks will now browse Twitter before going on air, simply to find more for a story, or to find a new one. This is a scary new reality for journalists who are not comfortable with this shift, but after this election, looks to be the future of how we get information. Trump fits this idea especially well because of his constant involvement on Twitter, creating stories from each thread or tweet. This can eliminate the need for journalists who would have broken whatever information Trump is now sharing, but it does allow journalists to quote him in a way that was never before possible. Twitter has become the news, no longer just a news sourse.

The importance of focusing on social media and traditional news media as separate focuses is supported by findings from the article Mapping the Global Twitter Heartbeat. In their conclusion on the mapping of news media and Twitter, they found that even in overlap, both entities do cover areas that are virtually untouched by the other. When keeping this in mind, it is important to remember that both are important mediums to focus on when reaching consumers, and should be still equally used. This dynamic may change in the future, as it is clear that there continues to be a shift in how United States residents receive their news.

Now that social media (especially Twitter) has been established as a major factor into how information is shared and how people communicate online, what are its limits? Will election campaigns just be focused online and will those in opposition continue to organize through social media? What does the future of journalism look like when those who were once being written about are now the ones writing themselves?