Have you ever wondered what occupied your mind before the telephone transformed from being a table decoration to your daily fashion accessory? Or why many people run into you at the mall without as much as saying a polite ‘am sorry?’ Well, I have. Pretty much daily. Whereas in the past, people could leave all their troubles behind, today, they carry the sources of their high blood pressure all around but they don’t call it that – they call it – cellphones.
Yes. Whoever decided to take the phone from the table into our hands did us so much good, but also gave us the source of our insomnia. Just cast your mind back to those halcyon days when a broken news took one week or month to hit the headlines. Just when did you last enjoy an uninterrupted class session; listened to a good presentation without a phone interruption? Everywhere you go, people have their fingers on the triggers of their phones, iPads or iPods – clicking away. And in halls, people squirm in their seats as if they’re constantly bitten by bedbugs. But no, there are no blood suckers around much these days. But whether or not you put your mobile phones in silent mode, when they vibrate with that social media message, you are tempted to scratch the itch – pluck them from your pouch and look.
By January 1, 2014, Twitter had 645 million members sending 51 million tweets per day. ( http://www.statisticbrain.com/twitter-statistics/). That’s perhaps much more than it would take for the New York Times to stay afloat. Facebook has 1.19 billion members with 728 million active users per day. (http://thenextweb.com/facebook/2013/10/30/facebook-passes-1-19-billion-monthly-active-users-874-million-mobile-users-728-million-daily-users/#!rPu02) These are not just mere statistics, they are also a source of revenue for advertisers and manufacturers, sellers and consumers daily turn to social media for the reach.
So, why do we have to look? Well, for various reasons. I have a confession to make, I do because there’s still much of the newshound in me. What if another plane has made a forced landing on Hudson River? What if someone close has died, or some overzealous army officer has taken over the governance of a third world nation?
Yes, there are mainstream media, but make no mistake about it, the best stories these days are broken by social media. Yes by those with no journalism training. People who were just in the right place at the right time. People who had a camera phone and how to click the right button or who have perfected the art of précis-writing aka tweeting. These are the new J Krums.
Social media has become our best companion. They bridge the gaps we did not know existed in our lives. It is here that the worst introvert has a million friends or followers. It is here that we do all our complaining and whining. Social media is our new psychologist – we tweet and post about our moods and report those things that mainstream media might not bother about.
Social media has become George Orwell’s Big Brother or the Private Eye. If a man was cheating on his wife, chances are that the other lady might make an innocuous remark about it on Facebook or Twitter. Worse still, that stolen kiss may have been snapped by someone across the restaurant who was just captivated by the passion behind the kiss unwary of what was going on.
If there is a riot in the backwaters of Africa, it might not interest Canadian mainstream media, but thanks to my unknown friends on Facebook or Twitter, I am likely to hear about it before some of those who live there except they’re on the same platform that is. The downside is that pretty much nothing is hidden these days. A Ghanaian minister was sacked recently because of a phone conversation on why she was in government got leaked to the press. Apparently, her driver was recording her conversation on his phone. When a radio station picked it up, social media latched onto it and the government had to sack her.
If you are on the wrong side of the law, be very careful because, when Interpol decides to blow your gaff, there would be no hiding place. The Tsarnaev brothers wouldn’t believe what hit them after they attacked Boston. Their social media profiles helped the security guys to put their ignoble faces on the global watchlist before they realised what had happened to them. Criminals have been caught because they couldn’t keep their itchy fingers in place – they just had to tweet about their exploits.
Social media is important for other reasons – its the market for new media and a platform for selling. You are likely to buy a product because your friends were ‘liking’ it or tweeting about it. I learnt of the death of one of my best friend via a posting on Facebook.
Yes, I love love social media, its my authentic source for happenings everywhere. This is why I may sometimes be caught not paying attention in Ben Halsall’s Web Media class – oh gosh, are you serious? Now I told him why I have a short attention span.