Wick Communications

A social media distortion?

In Online media on November 4, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I was very interested in this report from the L.A. Times. It concerns the aftermath of the San Francisco Giants victory in the World Series earlier this week. (Oh, did I fail to mention that the GIANTS ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS?!)

The blog reports a riot of activity across a multitude of social media platforms in the hours after the game. I guess that is to be expected. There are few towns on the planet any more wired for Internet activity than San Francisco.

Times blogger Tony Pierce writes: “It might not be getting a lot of late-night attention by the major TV or online news organizations, but the mayhem surrounding the San Francisco Giants’ World Series victory is burning up Twitter, Facebook, Twitpic and Flickr…” He goes on to note the use of hashtags like #SFriot as evidence of, well, some sort of riot. He suggests that mainstream media – particularly television, which has never seen a riot it didn’t exploit – ignored a worsening situation for some reason.

Pierce again: “Tech website Mashable had one of the first reports up online, just before midnight. In only two hours blogger Jolie O’Dell’s post had been retweeted more than 1,400 times, mostly because the activity wasn’t being seen on TV or available in many traditional news websites like CNN.com or San Francisco’s own SFGate.com.” …

I was not in San Francisco after the game, so I really couldn’t tell you firsthand what was going on. The reports I read, and those I have subsequently heard from friends in the city, say there were a couple of bonfires, but for the most part, people behaved. I heard Mayor Gavin Newsom say there were six arrests related to the revelry.

So why the discrepancy between social media reports and mainstream media reports?

I have a theory. I think there was some mayhem, just as the media and those tweeting initially reported. The problem was that these tweets were retweeted, as Pierce notes. Again and again. Facebook reports were shared and “liked.” Suddenly, a few isolated incidents look like widespread rioting. I’m betting some of those 1,400 retweets painted a darker picture than news reporters did because those particular social media “reporters” were either prone to exaggeration or simply weren’t there at all.

I am not saying that Twitter and Facebook and Flickr aren’t valuable sources of information in breaking news situations. I’m just suggesting that the volume of posts and tweets can itself have a magnifying effect that might distort the true situation. Something to consider if you ever feel the need to draw from social media as source material.

Oh, by the way: Pitchers and catchers report for spring training on Feb. 13. Can’t come soon enough.

Clay

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  1. You gonna try out, Clay?

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