Where were you when you heard the news?

Photo: Ryan Merkley

We have a tendency to remember big news moments, where we were and who we were with when we heard them. Big moments like JFK’s assassination, the lunar landing, our 1972 hockey world championship win and 9-11. The recent passing of Canadian musician Gord Downie was another big news moment for many in our country.

Big news moments in music

I have a vivid childhood memory of hearing the news of John Lennon’s death. My mother woke me up for school and told me he had died. Our family talked about it over breakfast. My parents had grown up in England and experienced Beatle Mania.

I can also recall hanging out with friends with the radio on, decked out in our plaid flannel shirts and ripped jeans, when we heard the news of Kurt Cobain’s death. We were shocked and sad, and sang along together as the station played Nirvana for the rest of the day.

There’s sharing in a moment

Fast-forward to the age of social media. Similar to the news of David Bowie, Prince and Tom Petty’s deaths, I learned of Gord Downie’s passing from my Twitter feed. At all of these moments, I was on my own. Social media provides big news as soon as it happens, no waiting for the six o’clock news or newspaper delivery to learn about it. Unlike years ago when I only had family or friends to share in the experience, condolence tweets and posts remembering Gord and quoting his lyrics poured in from across the country. Even the Prime Minister expressed his sadness on Twitter. And yet at that moment I still felt, and was, alone.

And then there’s being together in a moment

Social media is a powerful tool that can put us in the know immediately and allow us to connect with people throughout the world to share our thoughts and feelings the instant we have them. But it can’t fulfil our need to be together for big moments, the way the gathering of friends and strangers telling stories and singing Tragically Hip songs did on Parliament Hill on Wednesday night. And that’s a good thing. Rest in peace Gord.

What are your “where were you when you heard the news” memories?

Social media helps us share in big news moments http://bit.ly/2zoY7mG

Where were you when you heard the news? How do you share in big news moments – social media, in person or both? http://bit.ly/2zoY7mG

Social media: Bringing out the best in us

Photo: Max Pixel

As my first two blog posts have explored the potential negative impacts of social media, I wanted to turn to the positive impacts. By positive I mean beyond just the business potential of social media as it relates to the bottom line.

When the unexpected happens

As I thought about this I recalled a day last fall when, as I did every day, I arrived at my daughter’s elementary school a few minutes before 3 pm to pick her up. As I crossed the street, the crossing guard informed me that the school had gone into lock-down five minutes previously and she didn’t know how long it would be before the children were released. When I got to the door where I met my daughter each day, the regular group of after school pick-up parents were assembling. We had no information about what caused the lock-down. I wondered what could be happening that posed such a threat that the children could not leave their classrooms, let alone the school. I wondered if it was safe for the parents to be waiting outside.

Where to turn for information

The feeling of being so close to your child but unable to be with her and protect her while not knowing the potential danger facing us is indescribable. My first reaction was to grab my phone and check Twitter. Local news in my feed reported that a student at a high school in close proximity to my daughter’s school had been seen with a hand gun. The high school, my daughter’s school and two others in the immediate area were on lock-down as police investigated. I was relieved to know what was happening. Further relief came with information that the police quickly discovered that the gun was a replica and the lock-down was soon lifted at all the schools.

Social media in crisis situations

As I reflected on this situation, I thought about the recent hurricanes that have hit the Caribbean and southern United States and the role social media played in the rescue efforts.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Marcus Gilmer’s article, Social media’s best qualities shine during Harvey response, highlights examples of how social media was used to aid in rescue efforts for Hurricane Harvey. Social media had a huge impact during this natural disaster compared to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when Facebook was a still a private platform and Twitter didn’t yet exist. When the 911 system was overwhelmed during Hurricane Harvey, locations of where people were stranded were posted on Twitter so anyone with a boat who could help could respond. The Cajun Navy, a group of civilians with boats, used Facebook and Twitter to broadcast their availability to help, and a Facebook group was created to help people track loved ones in the area.

Similar to Gilmer’s article, Fast Company produced this short video capturing how social media helped in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, including Facebook’s safety check feature and a Snapchat Harvey Story with over 300,000 posts.

Gilmer captured the impact of social media well. “There’s a constant theme shining on social media during this disaster: acts of kindness and helpfulness abound.” He went on to write “for a few days the good rose to the top, the positive potential of social media outpaced the bad and displayed what can happen when the full potential of these tools are realized.”

There are no doubt negative impacts of social media, along with bad behaviour among some people who share on it. Social media is at its core a reflection of us as a society. Some of that is bad. But, overwhelmingly, it’s good.

What are your experiences with seeing the best of society reflected on social media?

 Find out how social media helps in a crisis http://bit.ly/2zkMRZb

 Can social media bring out the best in us? It can in a crisis – find out how http://bit.ly/2zkMRZb


Gilmer, M. (2017, August 29). Social media’s best qualities shine during Harvey response. Retrieved from: http://mashable.com/2017/08/29/social-media-harvey-rescues-force-for-good/#PBdrJBGUGOqR

FastCompany. (2017, August 29). The power of social media during natural disasters, August 29 2017 [Video]. Retrieved from: https://www.fastcompany.com/40460182/the-power-of-social-media-during-natural-disasters


Does social media make us narrow-minded?

Imagine if the only views you ever heard were echoes of your own thoughts. Would you be more or less-informed about the world?

Social media provides us with the ability to share our thoughts, ideas and opinions with friends and communities who share our interests. It also provides us the ability to filter the content to which we are exposed to only that which interests us. Some platforms even do that filtering for us, based on our own use habits. What results is our social networks become homogeneous groups – people who think just like us.

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the spreading of misinformation online included two interesting findings about our social media habits:

1. We are susceptible to confirmation bias

As humans, we have a natural desire to want others to agree with us, or “like” our posts.  We reinforce this when we limit our social networks to communities of common interest. This leads to confirmation bias if we only ever receive feedback which agrees with our own perspectives.

2. Our social networks become echo chambers

An echo chamber as defined in the Oxford Dictionary is “an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered”. Because our social networks are communities of common interest, the content that we follow and share will be similar in terms of view-points.

While we may feel social media broadens our horizons by allowing us to connect with people throughout the world, it can in fact lead to much narrower perspectives.

Overcoming the echo effect

As I considered my social media feeds, I asked myself “what am I not seeing?”. Most news outlets tend to be either left or right-leaning in their reporting. I now try to include a balance of both in my feed. I believe equally important to my news feed is engaging in discussions beyond my online network. Face-to-face conversations about current events and life challenges always tend to shed new light on my own views.

What are you doing to overcome the echo effect in your social networks?

 Is social media making us narrow-minded? http://bit.ly/2fWmaFo

 Are you caught in a social media echo chamber? Find out how to get out of it. http://bit.ly/2fWmaFo


Is social media killing our social skills?

Photo: Getty

As I review the course material and our definitions of social media from our first discussion forum posts, there’s no denying the benefits social media provides. With 2.8 billion people now using social media, we are connected with friends and strangers in communities sharing news, ideas and opinions like never before. We have the choice of what we want to be connected to and social platforms’ constantly evolving algorithms use our data to get to know us better to continually offer a more personalised experience.

The marketer versus the mom in me

As a marketer, I can appreciate that the business potential with social media is huge. Our ability to engage in communities with our customers, listening to and learning more about our audiences to better meet their needs ultimately helps drive the bottom line. But as a mom, while I watch our two teenagers constantly attached to their phones and social networks, and, by default, detached from the people in the room with them, I have to question if this is a good thing. And with our nine year old itching to get a phone of her own so she can get on Snapchat like her brothers, I’m even more concerned.

And it’s not just kids today

I have to acknowledge that this isn’t just a trend with “kids today”. I recently had lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while to catch up. Her phone was on the table for the entire meal, her eyes diverting to it each time an alert popped on the screen. She knew which friend’s house her kids were going to, what projects needed her approval at work, and when the next sale was happening at Nordstrom. All good stuff, but nothing that needed her immediate attention.

Fear of missing out

In reflecting on this, I wondered about the negative impact social media has on our social skills. A quick look on Google turned up reams of articles on the topic. This CNBC article references a recent survey that found 54 percent of millennials experience fear of missing out (FOMO) when not checking social media, with 76 percent of women and 54 percent of men admitting to checking at least 10 times when out with friends. The article also cites a Virginia Tech University report which found that the extent to which our phones divert us from face-to-face interactions actually undermines “the character and depth of these connections.”

All hope is not lost

As I sifted through more links, I was encouraged to find several articles pointing to the many benefits of a social media vacation – a self-imposed hiatus for a specified period of time. Hopefully this is a trend that will catch on.

Have you found yourself in the situation of competing with the phone of a friend, colleague or family member? Share your views on social media making us less social.

 Is social media making us less social? #FOMO http://bit.ly/2yzVjDy

 Can social media actually do more harm than good to your social interactions? Find out why and how you can avoid it. http://bit.ly/2yzVjDy