I confess, for a fairly tech-savvy guy I’m not too big on social media. The English major in me rails against the dumbing down of our language as used and severely abused by Twitter, the droning on of Facebook and don’t even get me started on Four Square.
Still, I can’t deny that there is some good that has come of all this…stuff. I was reminded of this while writing the story of Riley Sprowl, which you can read elsewhere in this newspaper. The short version of the story: Riley is a great kid who had a tragic accident and is battling it out in the hospital. Where Facebook comes into the picture says as much for the posters as it does for the viability of the site. Once news broke of Riley’s accident a Facebook site (Pray for Riley) was set up, allowing for postings on Riley’s current medical status and a timeline of his treatment. It gave people who care about Riley a place to commune.
Moreover, Facebook is allowing well-wishers the chance to send out messages of love and support for the family without crowding the hospital waiting room. Riley’s family has also been able to use Facebook as a means to convey its appreciation during a tough, tough time in their lives.
Of course, Facebook isn’t always put to such good use. I have one particular former co-worker from my McKinney days who is constantly updating her profile photo — all "selfie" shots. And if I ever want to know what she’s considering having for dinner as she considers taking a walk while sitting on the couch watching The Bachelor, well then, I’m in luck. And there’s the political side of Facebook. I keep my political leanings to myself, so I’m constantly inundated with "thoughtful" posts, re-posts and re-re-reposts from all sides. Color me not impressed.
Twitter is the worst example of social media gone astray, a 140-digit one-fingered salute to the English language. Curious how to misspell the word "you’re" 100 different ways? Twitter can help. Want to post photos you know you shouldn’t? Ditto.
Twitter is a good place to self-destruct publicly. One of the most infamous involved former New York representative Anthony Weiner. Dubbed Weinergate by the always-creative New York media, the former representative tweeted out a pic of a certain body part ultimately culminating in his resignation from the U.S. House of Representatives. He tried a run for Mayor of New York but just couldn’t help photographing said body part and tweeting it out to certain interested women. My advice to the famous among us goes like this — don’t have a drink or two and take to Twitter.
What galls me as a journalist is when public figures refuse to do interviews but go on Twitter and post out their version of events. They are able to spin their version without any questioning or follow-up and submit that to the public as truth. It’s a great way for a public figure to practice complete spin control and not be held accountable.
Social media offers up a smorgasbord of constant updates, quick-hit information and pictures galore. Use it wisely.
Rodney Williams is the managing editor for The Anna-Melissa Tribune and the Van Alstyne Leader. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.