I know exactly how Anne Trebek feels. No, i’m not a book editor or a literary critic. I don’t live in Cleveland or mingle among the literary and academic elite. I do, however, use Twitter…and Facebook…and Tumblr…and any other social medium that allows me to connect with people. People who share my passion for liberty, freedom, Ron Paul, education, journalism, animal rescue, travel, and about a million other hobbies and interests. In the past two years, I have been lucky enough to meet people, experience opportunities, and open doors that would have remained closed, if it weren’t for the vast reach and power of the internet’s social networking capabilities.
In “Only the Literary Elite Can Afford Not to Tweet” in SFGate, Trubek explores the upside to being a member of a social media community. She is an avant Twitter user and although, Twitter isn’t my favorite social networking site, it’s in my top three. I can easily see the Twitter appeal and it has helped boost my number of career connections, tenfold. Truth be told, it’s Twitter’s stringent 140 character limit that secures it’s number two spot on my favorite’s list. I know that comes as a shock to those of you who know me, but it’s not all about my lack of brevity. In order to be concise while Tweeting, one must use the “&” symbol and abbreviate words. My academic training rears its ugly head and that voice inside of me screams “NOoooooooo” whenever I begin to substitute symbols and abbreviations for words. I suppose it’s no longer the cardinal sin it once was and that just because I’m able to tweet using symbols and abbreviations doesn’t mean that i’m any closer to losing the ability to spell out words like “love,” “for,” and “you” with the teenage millennial substitutions of “luv,” “4,” and “u”. So far, I’ve managed to keep a significant number of followers while only using the abbreviated syntax sparingly.
Trubek noted that because of social media’s vast reach, she was able to gain an “intellectual community” that she otherwise lacked in her daily life. I can certainly relate. My local friends are by no means stupid, but many do not share my interests or passions – and if they do – there is a significant difference in our intensity levels. Now, that I have made my passion my work, it is nice to live two lives to some degree, as Trubek suggests. At her office, she “mingles” with intellectual equals who are eager to participate in conversations pertaining to her passion – editing, but when she closes her office door and opens her front door every evening, fulfilled by her work and her community, she is comfortable letting her other interests run free.
Growing up without the connectivity of the internet, I didn’t realize how big of a change it could make in one’s life until recently. After obtaining an Advertising degree and struggling to find work that didn’t feel like work, I began to question how I would be able to find happiness in a career for the next 50 years. I hated everything about the day to day and was disturbed about the lack of fulfilling jobs available in this city. One day, that all changed and it wasn’t until I read Anne Trubek’s words that I realized the debt I owed Facebook and Twitter. She is right – with social networking sites people are less judgemental. Even though physical appearance is part of that, I’m not talking about a “catfish” scenario. People of all ages can become friends and colleagues through Facebook and Twitter. In fact, one of my best friends, and fellow activists, lives right here in Memphis but I met her originally on Facebook. Her youngest son is a college student at the University of Memphis and she is 15-20 years my elder. I’ve actually never asked her age specifically, because it mattered so very little. However, I truly believe that without social media being our first connection – we would’ve never gravitated to each other. If meetings and networking events had been our first introduction, the categorical differences would’ve placed us in separate “groups.” Social media can act as a “leveller” in many ways. I have been able to change career paths and have conversations with cutting-edge influencers who give me the same respect as they give a 20-year political campaign veteran.
Next, Trubek addresses social media self-promotion. Many critics, with beliefs similar to Jonathan Franzen’s, consider garnering publicity for oneself through social media channels to be a new form of bragging and boasting – and it can be but it isn’t a cut and dry as they make it sound. I find the methods in which some self-promote to be arrogant and flamboyant. That doesn’t mean that all social media self-promotion is arrogant and flamboyant – in fact, if done correctly and with class – it won’t be a turn off, it will be a turn on – garnering you the attention you deserve. There will always be the “used car salesmen” of the internet but that doesn’t mean you have emulate their actions – there are plenty of ways to promote yourself, without selling yourself.
This week’s readings were very Twitter-ful and helped to give guidance in the art of Twittering. Okay, so you caught me. I’m trying to be cute because it’s easier than going through four articles on different standards and processes for one’s use of Twitter.
In “Storyful’s Validation Process” by Malachy Browne, he walks the reader through a series of steps that could help a journalist in the digital age of information ascertain the verifiable truth. First, he notes the mantra “there is always someone closer to the source,” and goes on to explain that journalist’s you should always try to locate the original source of any videos. Fair enough, you say? Exactly – wouldn’t most people do this? Well, one would think so but honestly, I’ve seen so many incorrect and false posts on Facebook that reliable sources just re-posted without verifying – I have come to realize the answer is No, most people wouldn’t do this. They would assume it was the truth, and we all know what happens when you assume. Browne explains the multitude of techniques that you can use such as examining the embedded data within the images, cross-referencing the video uploader’s social media accounts for location, reliability, bias, and length of existence, as well as consistent video quality and number of close friends, and checking the video descriptions for any telling information such as a date or a specific location or IP address.
Next, Browne gives an example of a video posted to YouTube that shows residents of coastal Meulaboh, Aceh fleeing from the April 11th, 2012 tsunami. Storyful was able to verify the video uploader was from Meulaboh, that he had previously uploaded other videos from Meulaboh in the past six months, and that he was an active Twitter user and blogger, as well as verify the location in the footage through a visible sign that read “Meulaboh Lagoon.” They concluded that this video was in fact truth and because they verified that information, they could feel good about publishing it.
Browne delineates several other techniques that one could use to corroborate the content of a video before assuming its truth. Once the uploader has been assessed, he suggests that you focus on the content. First, you ask the obvious questions such as does anything in the video look out of place and does it make sense in the filming context. Then you move to the more detailed questions by examining the background of the video and checking for geo-tagging, landmarks or topographical data. One should also check to ensure that weather conditions in the footage match other reports for that given day including checking to see if the shadows that appear in the videos jive with the time of day that is reported. Next, Browne reminds you to check for accents or dialects that could create a disconnect between the people speaking in the video and the location in which it is supposedly filmed, as well as verifying that other users have mentioned the “event” in local news reports, news wires, twitter feeds and lists, or by posting other videos and images.
At first glance this looks like a lot of work and admittedly, it takes time as Browne suggests. However, as journalists it is our responsibility to gather and report the FACTS – not the potential facts. A few extra minutes spent doing due diligence could ultimately save you a lot of time trying to repair your reputation. The world doesn’t forgive journalists as easy as it forgives Justin Bieber.
Other Articles of Interest for this Week:
- If a Tweet Worked Once, Send it Again – and Other Lessons Learned from the New York Times’ Social Media Desk
- So now that you have your followers on Twitter and your friends on Facebook, don’t forget to measure how well you are doing! Start by trying some of the tips in: New Twitter Analytics, 10 Quick Measures You Can Use Today