Tragedy, News and the Importance of Social Media

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What do penicillin, soap, planes, telephones and social media have in common? They have either changed the way we live or the way we communicate.

Has social media really altered our lives and methods of communication? Yes and yes. In case you are still having doubts check out these calamities and tragedies where CNN and many major “traditional” media giants incorporated tweets, you tube videos and reports sent in by “contributors” from all over the world.

These social media tools affected the way breaking world news is being shared globally and here’s how:

Twitter: It is no surprise that Twitter is one of the best resources for finding breaking news and information. Maybe it is about the unrest in Libya, Egypt, Yemen or the very recent tragedies such as the Japanese 8.8 earthquake and the tsunami that followed. Users who are witnessing the event occurring right before their eyes update their twitter accounts via their mobile phones and it immediately goes online and is passed on by their followers. One other attraction of Twitter is the “trending” capability of this social network which allows users to search for topics they are interested in. Users use the # symbol, also called a hashtag, to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created as a way to categorize messages.

Facebook: In the same manner, Facebook allows users to update their status and share stories on their profile pages. This social media tool also allows for real-time ‘this just in’ news. Aside from status, videos and photos can also be shared and eventually be re-shared by their friends.

Google: The impact of the Social Media phenomenon is so large that Google has established a page known as the Google Crisis Response. Because people are flocking to social media as an alternative method to search for news about friends and loved ones during the occurrence of a natural calamity, the internet media giant saw the need for an alternative avenue to make critical information available and easily accessible during times of crisis by using technology for humanitarian reasons.

Until recently correspondents had to train for a very long time before they were provided the opportunity to be in front of the camera reporting the latest news. With social media everybody, even ordinary citizens who have a camera and an internet connection, can be a reporter for the day and send what they witnessed to news networks such as CNN for its Ireport segment. And during times when the network can’t get to the breaking news fast enough; the breaking news now gets to the networks — thanks in most part to social media.

So, if social media is still not a part of your life, very soon it will be. It is already a part of every major news networks “life” and ultimately, it will enter yours too.