Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Don’t Blame Twitter For The Swine Flu Brew Ha-ha, After All, It’s Just People Talkin’!

The swine flu outbreak is causing debate about how people get information during health emergencies – particularly when there are so many independent news sources.
Folks like Brennon Slattery (PC World Contributing Writer) feel Twitter -- a micro-blogging site where users post 140-character messages – is fueling misinformation about the outbreak. Folk went on to say "This is a good example of why [Twitter is] headed in that wrong direction, because it's just propagating fear amongst people as opposed to seeking actual solutions or key information."

How do you feel about that? Do you think that Twitter is being socially irresponsible?

Well, here’s my take—I totally disagree. You know why, because Twitter is just that, a bunch of folks chatting away about anything that comes to mind. It’s just people talking! You see, it’s what Twitter isn’t that makes this whole “Twitter social responsibility” thing irrational.

Twitter is not a blog. Blog’s, albeit of a tremendous variety of subjects, generally try and pass on information of value to their readers. Many bloggers consider themselves experts, or diligent followers, of the subjects of their blogs. Blogs give authors more than 140 characters to develop a story line and generally allow authors to site sources: most do. So, readers might expect to gain a modicum of truth about the Swine Flu outbreak from let’s say, a health blog. But I don’t know any reader who would expect to find something of value about the Swine Flu on a pornographic blog! And you best believe that not all bloggers are created equal. Some writers are more “expert” than others (academic education in field, lifelong experience, etc). Some do more research. Some bloggers are biased and favor a particular viewpoint on a subject. But, no matter what, the lesson is the same, take what you read with a grain of salt—its just people talking!

Twitter is not a full blown social networking site like Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn. Why is this so significant? Because on such sites; you’re going to have a lot of folks who have the same general interest and as much or more expertise than the author. This is what makes them so much fun. There will always be someone with an alternative point of view and able to express it in more than 140 characters. Twitter’s mantra says it all, “What Are You Doing?” It’s just people talking!

Twitter is not YouTube, a video sharing website where users can upload, view and share video clips. Many fancy themselves as cub reporters showing events as they happen in real time. Twitters tweet. What can you learn from a bird? Relax. It’s just people talking!

So for me, to say that Twitter should “seek actual solutions or key information” is to say that every human being who has anything to say should say something meaningful. They should, but they don’t! And in Twitter’s case, I actually think this is a good thing. You see, Twitter provides a great service, especially in this instance, because it gives people a place to vent: which lessens anxiety.

And, did I mention that the Centers for Disease Control has its own Twitter account?

The Twitter “debate” is stupid, people aren’t. The tweeters on Twitter understand that gathering information, from any source, is just like buying something: caveat emptor “let the buyer beware.” They understand they’re just talking!

One of the real issues here is where should people EXPECT to get credible information about such things? While there’s a host of good tweets on it; it definitely isn’t Twitter.

There is also the issue of satisfying the public’s need for credible information. Perhaps the Government or more specifically President Obama should speak to the American people and let them know what’s going on…in lieu of the media sound bites.

Finally, the current Swine Flu outbreak has sparked a number of old debates and questions. Hmm…perhaps it’s time to discuss immigration? How about what to do with the boarders? Just what are you going to do to protect US citizens from this outbreak and others like it? Are illegal aliens in the US putting all Americans at risk with insanitary lifestyles based on the cultures and countries they came from (e.g. keeping farm animals within the city limits and in their homes)?

While I don’t know the answer to these questions, the Government does, or at least it should. And believe me the American people (even Tweeple) expect the Government and not Twitter to address them now.

How do you feel?

- Has Twitter been irresponsible?

- Where have you been getting your information on the Swine Flu epidemic?

- Do you feel the Government has done a good job of keeping the public informed?