We Don’t Have To Be The First To Report

There’s an epidemic among social media bloggers, tweeters, YouTube uploaders and the like to be the first to report something across the social media sphere the moment it happens.

But…do we always really need to?

If broadcast news has taught us anything, it’s that reporters get it wrong. And in a world that’s become increasingly more real-time, their reports in error get pumped through every major social media channel in an instant. When a terrible event happens in which a shooter massacres elementary school children in Connecticut, you want to get it right. You don’t want to be wrong on that. But lo and behold, many broadcast news journalists were – they identified the wrong person as the shooter at first.

But is the traditional media entirely at fault? No. Social media is just as at fault.

That’s right. If you ever spread a rumor about someone in high school, is the person who started the rumor to begin with the person who is entirely to blame? Of course not.

In social media, we get it wrong a lot. Too much, too often. In fact, we’re not afraid to share silly hoaxes at the drop of a hat in an effort to be the first to tell it (Morgan Freeman is dead! Oh wait. No, he’s not.).

Here’s the deal, folks. If you want to be taken seriously in any possible realm, you have to have the first impulse to want to get it right by taking in the facts you know and commenting thoughtfully rather than sharing blindly.  Social media can be a powerful tool for disseminating information in ways we still don’t completely understand. It can telegraph the change of a regime in Egypt as it’s literally happening but it can also identify the wrong shooter in Newtown, Connecticut just as quickly. Blame it all on CNN? You’re just the messenger? Nice try. They were wrong, which you picked up on and spread the wrong information on Twitter in a feeble attempt to look, what, like you were more “in the know?”

We have enough sharers. We have enough Retweeters. We have enough e-mail forwarders.

We don’t have enough people in social media wanting to take a breath and give their own perspective. If we did, we’d allow ourselves the grace period that can occur when journalists get the story wrong, state a correction and then we can comment on the total story in front of us. It’s easy to Retweet. It’s not easy to hold back for a moment and blog just a little later in the day.

Ironically, if you truly wanted to stand out from the crowd, you may gain far more respect for being in the latter camp. And consequently stand out all the more.

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