At 11pm ET on Sunday, I found out through a text message (from my mother, nonetheless), that Osama Bin Laden was killed. Did I switch from the movie I was watching to CNN? No, I did not. Did I log on to a breaking news site on my computer? Nope, didn’t do that either. I instinctively checked my Twitter timeline and only then was this information confirmed for me. Then I turned on the news.
Tweets Top 3,000 Per Second
Apparently, I was not alone in resorting to social media for the most up-to-date info regarding an historical event. Twitter says that between 10:30pm- 12:30am ET on Sunday, Osama’s death generated an average of 3,440 tweets per second! From the time of the first tweet mentioning his death (debatable) and the official confirmation from the White House (11:35pm ET), an hour had passed. In social media, an hour might as well mean forever.
Social Media > Traditional Media as a News Source?
So, questions abound regarding the implications that ‘Twitter having it first’ has for social media. Will Twitter take over the NYTimes and CNNs of the world? Has everyone become a reporter in their own right these days? Have our televisions and newspaper subscriptions suddenly become such a thing of the past that we should feel… embarrassed for having them? Maybe not the latter quite yet, but yes, social media–Twitter included–will at some point become the most credible way of getting the news. It’s clear that social media is an essential way to inform yourself, especially after this past weekend’s events, and just because what people tweet does have a propensity to be exaggerated, Twitter as a news source is indispensable nevertheless.
Credibility of Mediums
Still, some call it ‘nonsense‘ that recent industry headlines read how Twitter broke the news of Osama Bin Laden‘s death. Until something is confirmed by credible sources, we have no way of knowing it’s true. Well, everyone knows that you can’t believe everything you read. Yet I, like thousands of others, turned to social media for more information…first.
Why I Turned to Twitter
For me and thousands of others, Twitter did break the news. Sure, it wasn’t confirmed yet at the time, but that’s not the point. Why? Because it doesn’t get any more ‘real time’ than social networks. The point is that I wanted to be in the know, regardless of if the news had been confirmed or not. The dissemination of news on Facebook and Twitter simply spreads at a significantly faster rate, and reading tweets from many people as opposed to one news station’s updates was more valuable for me.
We turn to social media not because it trumps traditional news organizations in credibility (yet) but because that’s where we know people are talking. My generation (Generation Y) has been conditioned to constantly be in the know–information is at our fingertips, we know how to find it all and most importantly, we want it instantly. I’m not getting rid of my TV just yet and yes, I do recognize a newspaper when I see one, but for me, the news that many of us have been waiting to hear for nearly a decade was affirmed to me on Twitter. After checking my tweets, of course I turned on my TV to tune into President Obama’s announcement, but Twitter gave me the information I wanted to know to be ready for what he had to say. Social media is essential in how information is obtained and shared, and as a vehicle for its dissemination, its role will only become increasingly important.
How did you find out about Osama’s death?
- Death of Osama Bin Laden & the role of Social Media (bubblecube.wordpress.com)
- The World Responds to Osama Bin Laden’s Death (mashable.com)
- Talking About the Osama bin Laden Twitter Flood (prsarahevans.com)