Twitter you made a fool of me!

Teenage boy pulling fire alarmWait, maybe I made a fool of myself.

January 13, 2010, Twitter users alerted their communities about an explosion at Grand Central Terminal. Grand Central Terminal was allegedly evacuated and shut down by SWAT teams. Subway lines, specifically, the 4,5, and 6 were completely bypassing those specific stops or shut down as well. I work in Manhattan and in relatively close proximity to the station. I have co-workers commuting daily through that station, and many others that use the 4,5,6 line to go home. This is what happened after digesting the “warning”:

TJ: “Christina – you seeing this?”
Me: “About Grand Central Station? I know. WTH? This can’t be real.”
TJ: “I don’t know. Everyone’s tweeting about it. Even Keith and he can’t lie.”
(Note: Caroline McCarthy of CNET also tweeted it)
Me: “Ha, then it has to be true! But seriously, I can’t find it anywhere except for Twitter. Should we tell the staff?”

What do you think I did? Yup. I told the staff. I sent an e-mail with the subject line: “GC Station possibly shut down with reported explosion. Will keep you posted.” My reason for sending it out? I had a flashback of 9/11. (I know, very dramatic). But honestly, my cousin was working in the city at the time. She heard the news about the first crash through Howard Stern and wasn’t sure if he was kidding or not. (Who the heck would kid about that?) Obviously he wasn’t. I figured I should let everyone know just in case.

5 minutes later I learned that this was false. ::Head meets desk:: I was forced to send an e-mail to the staff, again: “Just kidding – it was a hoax. Twitter lied.” What bothered me most was having to field the question from my managers: Where are you getting this news from? My managers are already Twitter skeptics and I gave them more of a reason to see no use to it at all. Let’s just say that for the rest of the day I was the butt of most jokes. Cest la vie.

However it got me thinking. How much can we actually trust this open forum? How can we trust Twitter? For me – I made a fool of myself. I take pride in the fact that I can admit that to the PRBC community. I laughed it off and now relentlessly research any “warning” tweets even if they’re from Keith ;). Yet it got me thinking, what if we had Twitter during 9/11? Or what about a smaller scale crisis like a night club shooting? Imagine being the rep of the hottest night club in NYC and one person tweets about a shooting/murder at your club. What can you do? How can you control that situation? More so, how can we control the messages that are on Twitter?

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