[Spencer Daily Reporter nameplate] Overcast ~ 43°F  
High: 45°F ~ Low: 43°F
Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

The power of words (and Twitter)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who would have thought social media websites would ever become a valid news source?

Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey -- along with their colleagues -- likely did not realize that potential when they created Facebook and Twitter, respectively.

But, that has clearly happened as such websites join blogs and even youtube videos as sources of news.

Searching for "twitter" on google news Wednesday yielded 40,800 results, while "facebook" and "myspace" lagged behind with a combined 37,600.

Sports news seems to be most prevalent on Twitter.

Reports on the site about Auburn quarterback Cam Newton's alleged suspension have been debunked, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice tweeted about giving a police officer an autograph and avoiding a ticket, Oklahoma State basketball player Matt Pilgrim has apologized via Twitter for previous joking comments on the site about a shooting near campus, and Jose Canseco -- undoubtedly wanting to feel loved -- is giving his followers the chance to pay to call him, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity.

Considering social media has a prominent place in pop culture, it is not surprising that celebrities make the news via such sites on a minute-by-minute, if not second-by-second basis.

Rapper Wiz Khalifa -- fresh off a drug-related arrest -- released his single "Huey Newton" on the site, Conan O'Brien "dominated Twitter trends" when he made his TBS debut, the band Slipknot requested on Myspace that an overzealous fan who took items from their late bassist Paul Gray's grave to return them and teen singer Justin Bieber made headlines when he surpassed 6 million Twitter followers.

Not wanting to be outdone, politicians -- and their critics -- are taking advantage of social media, as well.

Indonesian Minister of Communications and Internet Technology Tifatul Sembiring took heat from his "followers" when he shook hands with First Lady Michelle after vowing not to touch a woman to whom he is not related, Queen Elizabeth has received unflattering comments about her and her family on her Facebook page and even Rep. Steve King has gotten into hot water over twitter statements, not to mention the fake twitter feed "kingforcongress."

Yes, social media sites, and the headlines they bring, are seemingly here to stay.

There are obviously dangers associated with such a trend.

For example, in a 2009 survey by the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, about one-fourth of employers reported disciplining employees for improper activities on social networking sites.

Yes, even the 140 characters that Twitter restricts messages to can cause an awful lot of damage. (In comparison, these two sentences count as 158 characters.)

Detroit Pistons power forward Charlie Villanueva has made news via Twitter twice, once as an instigator and once as a victim.

He first was disciplined for tweeting during halftime while he played for the Milwaukee Bucks. Most recently, sports pundits across the country came to his aid when he tweeted "KG (Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett) called me a cancer patient..."

Garnett claims he said Villanueva was "cancerous" to his team and the league. Fans familiar with Garnett know the latter sounds more like something he would say, though still not appropriate.

The incident prompted Ron Furlong of bleacherreport.com to write "Tweets need to stop being 'news.'

He is exactly right.

With so few words at a tweeter's disposal and the tendency for electronic communication to be misconstrued, little on social media sites should be considered credible. But, in this news hungry society, that is what is happening.

Just as not "everything you read on the Internet is true," most things on such sites is not newsworthy.

Nonetheless, think before you tweet.

Gabe Licht
Junior Moments