I have little doubt that Twitter and Facebook will be the undoing of our society.
That’s kind of a remarkable statement, given that these tools bridge relationships in a way we really have never seen before.
While Twitter and FB are capable of spreading legitimate information with unprecedented speed, they just as easily become vehicles for propagating pure misinformation. Misinformation which propagates at the same unprecedented speed.
The Haiti earthquake has provided a perfect illustration of this.
Twitter and Facebook are abuzz today of claims that UPS is shipping goods to Haiti for free, and that airlines are flying doctors and nurses to Haiti for free. Social media users, requiring no due diligence of themselves whatsoever, lulled into some kind of ‘everything at face value’ mentality, are blindly re-tweeting and re-posting this in epidemic fashion.
And of course, nothing of what is being re-tweeted and re-posted is true. Nothing is being shipped for free. There are no free flights. But there are now millions of people who believe otherwise, and they were led to believe so extraordinarily quickly, preferring their emotional response to a crisis over old fashioned common sense. Oldest trick in the book, getting older every day, and never showing any worse for wear.
Twitter and FB hoaxes are by no means a new phenomenon. But we’ve yet to see our wonderful new social media tools in full stride in the context of a disaster. Well, now we have. And in the fallout, I think we see something a bit more ominous than what became of the false prospect of Britney Spears’ passing or Bill O’Reilly being gay.
One day, misinformation spread in this manner will lead to much worse than collective embarrassment. Under the right circumstances, it will cost people their lives.
The simple fact that people demand so little validation from their sources of information should make you nervous. Demand more of yourself and others.
Read, research…then react.