Jessica M. Levine

Social Media: Hero or Villain?

Social media is taking away our humanity.  At least this is what Bill Keller discusses in The Twitter Trap.  My question to Keller is how can this be true when so much evidence exists of stimulating conversations on social media platforms, and real-life conversations triggered by a social media site?

Yes, some people do not take advantage of the learning opportunities that sites like Twitter and Facebook afford, but that does not mean that social media is corrupting intelligent conversation.  I would argue instead that social media, especially Twitter, provides a platform for collaboration that takes journalism to a new level.

Unlike classic journalism, social media sites lower the barriers to enter the public sphere.  Of course with the open access we must be careful and check our sources as Steve Fox has so brilliantly shown through Twitter.  That said, low barriers are a blessing in disguise for social media because they eliminate the constraints of time and space, which allows anyone, anywhere, to experience an image, video or story firsthand.

This power is obvious through the revolutionary use of social media sites in countries such as Egypt and Syria.  Social media is a way for people to check facts and fill in missing information.  In a way, social media has become a watchdog for the government and classic journalism.  However, this watchdog position must go full circle for the truth to prevail.  If the government, traditional journalism organizations and social media collaborate, then we would be able to get all the information we need to make informed decisions.

Unfortunately, this is not how the media function today.  A war exists between old and new media, especially from blogs.  This stigma against blogs has existed since the beginning of the blogosphere.  It boils down to the questions: Who is really a journalist? What does credibility in the blogosphere mean?

We must move away from this ancient argument and focus on the benefits of collaboration and openness on the Web.  Jeff Jarvis made a comment that really stuck with me:

“Online, the story, the reporting, the knowledge are never done and never perfect.”

What better way to learn than through as many people as possible?  So Keller, you are correct to use caution when it comes to social media, but be open-minded as well.

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This entry was posted on January 28, 2014 by in Journalism Advice and tagged .
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