Tweets as Supposed Evidence? (a.k.a. When SM Hype Detracts from the News)


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Stack of newspapers in rack, elevated viewIn a community characterized by comments and retweets, it is often difficult to notice when the SM becomes the news, rather than the news itself.

After reading some tweets the other week, I noticed the frequency of condolences directed towards @military_mom and felt compelled to dig a little deeper.

It seems, tweets have gone from being merely traceable in a Google search, to starring as the headline of an ABCNews story, the subject of Huffington Post’s scrutiny, and the fodder for a New York Post report as well.

By no means am I here to pass judgment, draw conclusions or pretend to know the circumstances of the incident.  I’m merely here to say that the hype of SM, and a mother’s usage of Twitter, have caused a media firestorm and effectively detracted from the real news – the loss of a toddler’s life, during the holiday season no less.

For all of the great things SM has given us – real time communication capabilities and a redefined media landscape, among other valuable communication assets – it can also be taken out of context and spiral into an unending, out-of-control conversation, carried on by a limitless number of contributors.

While there is, undoubtedly, a tangible value to the community one joins when partaking in SM, we lose control (thank you, David Meerman Scott for engraining that in my brain.)  It’s a scary proposition, but one that we cannot avoid in the SM world.

Think about it – you blog, another blogger cites your post in their post.  You tweet, your follower retweets, their followers retweet.  Before you know it, one off-the-cuff tweet has inspired a hashtag.  Can you (realistically) withdraw the hashtag from the Twitterverse?  You certainly can’t ask every retweet-er to delete their tweet.  So there it is – you have lost control.

While losing control can be an immensely powerful thing, and one that undoubtedly leads to new opportunities, it can also lead to a firestorm.

So, when you tweet, retweet, comment, friend or fan, think about the bigger picture — the SM and IRL landscapes that are affected by your actions.  And realize, that in some instances, the SM can overshadow the news.

My condolences to Shellie Ross, because at the end of the day, it’s not about the SM, or what may or may not have happened, it’s about the loss of a child’s life.  That is the news.  To the media, deliver the facts, keep it succinct and let a mother grieve.

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