Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Chinese whispers go Digital

I saw a tweet at 2 am a couple of nights back. A friend tweeted saying that people were throwing stones on the streets of Bandra and that she had a scary ride home. Soon there were others tweeting about 'riots/ stone throwing' on the streets of Bandra and Khar and asked people to stay home. Some wondered about the relevance of asking people to 'stay home' at 2 AM. But this is Mumbai. I retweeeted some of these tweets too.

Then I switched on the TV. All the English news channels were showing repeats from the Grammy Award ceremonies from earlier in the day. Even the ticker didn't mention the stone throwing incidents. Ditto for Aaj Taak, the only Hindi channel I could think of. This was twenty minutes after the tweets started.

No surprises that the newspapers didn't mention this the next morning. But 2 AM was well after papers were put to bed.

I guess news travels fastest on social networks these days. Within that, possibly on Twitter. I didn't see a mention of the disturbances at Facebook. Which, of course, could be a function of Facebook groups being closed or limited ones. At Twitter you have access to a larger world.

There is another angle to this. Next afternoon I saw that someone retweeted a tweet on the Bandra riots. Many of us windered whether the riots were happening again. Some tweeted asking about this.

Turned out that the person, a friend of mine, intially didn't realise that the tweet was from the previous night. The moment she realised she sent a tweet explaining the mistake.

I guess social media could be a good cop. And a bad cop too. Potentially explosive in the hands of those who want to spread rumours.

The story doesn't end here. Turns out that the the street agitation was in protest against a hate page on Facebook.

Social Networks can shock. And awe.

Ask Grandpa Mubarak.


Pinku said...

actually, am starting to feel a little uneasy about the role and importance of social media and networks in our lives.

It was bad enough that people would google up anything, go to any of the links and start quoting it as an authority without checking for authenticity.

But twitter and facebook take this to dizzier heights - since the posts/ tweets come from people you know/ follow. You tend to believe and act on it even faster without checking for facts.


Mumbai Paused said...

Indian newspapers do self-censoring too. Especially in cases like these. For obvious reasons.

The knife said...

@Mumbai Paused...The first TV tickers on the terrorist attacks were on Nigeria drug fights. I wasn't on twitter then but there were all sort of rumours going on then

@Pinku, self censoring becomes that much more important in this context I would guess

Haddock said...

I am not yet into titter, but sometimes late delivery of SMS do cause the same type of confusion.

Linhy said...

Interesting blog!! come stop by my sometimes.

Quay Po Cooks said...

You observation is right:D We always have to double check we see on social media. Never react to it immediately.