In my recent discussions with a variety of PR professionals we have talked about the rise of social media and how it has revolutionized how public relations, media and global communications as a whole. The speed from which a story can be witnessed, recorded, published online and watched by someone across the globe is spectacular. Long gone is the 24-hour news cycle.
Just today I got a tweet on my feed from @NASA talking about a live spacewalk that was taking place 354 km above me. So with a click of a button I was watching an astronaut, well technically a cosmonaut, perform repairs up in space live on my computer screen. I could hear him communicating with mission control while a NASA announcer guided those listening to the feed through what was going on. It was captivating that technology has jumped this far in such a short span of time to be able to see, and feel a part of, something like that.
But has it become too fast?
With no controls the reputation of a person or business can be destroyed with false information, intentional or not, and a simple click of a button. Within an hour that video, or mis-tweet, can go viral and cause emotional, physical or financial damage before the truth can catch up.
Using events that happened in the news today, I saw online debate on two separate companies who were fending off potential PR disasters due to bad tweets.
After all, anything that you send out into the internet can never truly be erased. Delete them all you want but somewhere, somehow, someone has a screenshot or backup of your professional or personal screw-up.
That in my opinion is the reason why we need to accept a speed limit on social media. An acceptable right lane where people can coast along in safety while those who dare race ahead and risk crashing in their own personal or corporate blaze of glory. We, as a global society, need to make sure that speed isn’t of the essence, that patience will persevere and people will take that extra time to make sure accuracy overwhelms being first.
One can dream.
However, while social media is a great tool that can help those whose voices wouldn’t normally be heard, and whose causes need support, it will also attract those who seek to destroy things. That is the double edged sword of human nature. Again I have digressed a little from my original subject – it’s late so it tends to happen.
One of my biggest concerns of social media’s growing speed is the simple fact that it makes society more gullible and willing to accept what they read. This goes hand-in-hand with the damage social media can cause to people and businesses. We’re so used to breezing through fifty things flying at us through out phones that we latch onto the things that interest us and don’t give a second thought to whether they are true or not. We’ve been trained to believe in the basic trust that what we’re being told is the truth. Truth in what we learn in school. Truth in what we’re told by our parents. So naturally we see truth in what we read on the internet.
Now you can argue with me on this, that’s your right, but look at the simple fact that there are news organizations whom every day who reprint the faux stories posted on The Onion as real news solely because they see the words and trust them to be correct. The fact they want to be first in reposting it to their audience overshadows the time they should be taking to make sure what they are printing is correct. These are professionals who are forced to keep pace with and because of that they end up that driver in the SUV that just blitzed by you going 150 kph on your right side and almost taking off your mirror when they cut you off.
So should social media have a speed limit? Slide into autopilot and chime into the debate. After all it truly is an important issue that should be addressed before technology advances to the point where it’s beyond our control.