Michael Jackson’s death and the reliability of social media

So with the death of Michael Jackson today, Twitter has been abuzz (atweet?) as has Plurk, Youtube, Facebook, and just about every where else people can post their commentary for the death of the King of Pop.

Watching the news about Jackson’s death unfold was interesting because I was in the middle of BFE South Dakota and did not really have access to the TV, Radio or anything else other than my iPhone easily at hand (as I was enjoying being too lazy to reach behind my seat get my laptop and the Mifi out). So, I was poking around my Facebook and Twitter accounts when I saw people start posting about his death.  The only way I even heard the news was because I was looking at Twitter. What made the whole thing so interesting was that I saw at least 4 tweets from friends saying Jackson was dead before he was…and when I followed the retweet trail…I realized that people were just retweeting without following up on the news.

The kicker? Jackson was not dead when the tweets started saying he was, he was just in a coma. (Mind you within a short amount of time he was actually dead, but still)I found this out because I took the news with a “huh, I wonder if that is actually true” attitude and dug a little deeper.

Then the fake stories of celebrity deaths started appearing on the web and the sheeple on the social media sites (the ones who just follow along and retweet without thought) including the fake death of Jeff Goldblum (Yes the linked story is fake) and a whole bunch of nonsense about Harrison Ford.

What you have is a couple trolls thinking it funny to use the sudden death of one more celebrity this week (that is 3 in a week I think?) to stir things up . So, these people post outlandish stories about who also died and then a whole bunch of other people who don’t bother to check their facts pass it on.

This is overall a great example of how social media isn’t always a good thing, because sometimes the stories can run ahead of the actual facts. Okay, in some cases, like the fake stories about Ford and Goldblum…social media doesn’t just get ahead of the facts they don’t even have any foundation in reality. It’s like a game of telephone on steriods.

Today’s social media BS-pandemic is a pretty dramatic example about how people need to be a little more cautious about the information they take as “fact” when it comes to what they hear on any social media forum (or anywhere else for that matter). When you are reading something think about who is writing it, what agenda do they have…what credibility?

Heck, there are number people out there who will tell you all sorts of things about the Coast Guard (in case you haven’t been following the blog long I work for the Coast Guard), claiming that they have proof and facts… but in reality many of them are just trolls who have no proof of what they are saying (not even going to link to them, don’t feed the trolls!)…they are just disgruntled and want to stir $h1% up. Good for them, personally I would find a more satisfying outlet for my anger at the world, like underwater electric basket weaving.

Having seen this time and time again, and not just in reference to the Coast Guard,  it can be pretty irritating watching someone who obviously has a personal agenda make things up and try to pass them off as fact. Or, just as irritating the people who take everything they read as fact and pass on the stupid. I wonder how Goldblum felt when he found out that he had been declared dead by the internet?

Seriously? Make it a habit of looking at the about page for any blog you read, and following the weblink/bio of anyone you are looking at on Twitter. I don’t know about you, but I want to know who it is I am reading. After looking all that information about the author up,  I still follow up on what they said before I pass it along. Why? Because that is the responsible thing to do.

Social media can be a good thing, a great thing even, for education and broadening your understanding of the world through interaction with the human factor on a global scale…but there are a lot of trolls out there and just like you wouldn’t trust everyone you meet at a bar, people really need to check their facts before reposting information (or believing it) online.

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