COMM011-521 – Blog #2 Things I have discovered about on-line communities

Since I have been sampling social media, I have learned a number of things.  First, it’s important to be aware of the source of any information that you may come across on social media platforms.  As a former journalist, I was trained to always be balanced in my reporting – this rule does not apply in the social media world.

Politicians and political parties are frequent users of Twitter to push an agenda, shape public policy or generate discussion on a particular subject.  Whatever you views are on the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, Justin Trudeau certainly did an effective job of starting a sustained conversation in Canada on this topic recently with a number of SM interventions.

In other cases, SM content might be an outright lie or a hoax.  For some goods examples of this, check out http://tinyurl.com/o3nsabl.

I recall one wag saying that social media is the talk radio of the Internet – many people engage without any particular knowledge on a subject.  Consumers beware!

Fact checking is often a casualty of the need to communicate quickly.  In the rush to be first, even respectable media outlets have been caught with their pants down – dozens of news organizations  jumped all over a Tweet that originated in Ottawa in 2010 and reported that Gordon Lightfoot had passed away (See http://tinyurl.com/pkt5gh8).  Not true (although many of those who saw him recently at the Ottawa Folkfest might wonder.  But I digress).

It’s important to be critical in assessing SM content to determine its veracity, and to understand what the author’s intent was – to inform, misinform, create public discussion, or that perennial favourite, engage in a little bit of mischief.

Finally, don’t post anything on social media that you don’t want the world to see – even if you just have a handful of friends, as British PM David Cameron’s sister-in-law learned earlier this month (http://tinyurl.com/pktjm7u).