Michael Jackson, Billy Mays, and Farrah Fawcett all died within three days of each other.
I honestly can't remember how I got that information. It was everywhere. I probably got it from my mom leaving the TV on with Extra playing while I was eating lunch. Or maybe it interrupted my marathon of "16 and Pregnant" with one of those MTV news bulletins. Man, I always hated those. Forget Michael Jackson, I want my pregnant teenagers who make me feel better about my own life!
When I logged onto Twitter during those few days, one of the Top Tweets along with Jackson's death, was "Britney Spears dead." It was also a trending search on Google. I couldn't find any news site to back it up, but I was legitimately curious as to whether Spears had died as well.
Social media had lied to me. The days passed, Spears was alive. She even sang a tribute in Jackson's memory.
Social media is like Wikipedia. It's a good place to start, terrible place to finish.
I've learned news from Social more times than I can count. I learned about Brittany Murphy's death, Barack Obama winning the Nobel Prize, and as I said in an earlier post, Kanye West's famous "Imma let you finish," blunder, all from either Tweets or Facebook status updates. Of course, I had to verify all of them with actual news sources.
Notice a trend here, though: people don't tweet local news. In fact, in my experience, people rarely tweet news besides entertainment news. I'll be the first to admit I have Lady Gaga's and Nicole Richie's updates sent to my phone. But if I want to get news, I have to check the Twitters of the Daily Tar Heel or something similar.
In logging into Twitter just now to link to the DTH, I have found the perfect example. Trending Topic: "Criminalize miscarriages."
My first reaction: you can go to jail for your own child dying inside you?
So I clicked it. I read the article all the tweets linked to. All the tweets said something to the effect of "Mormon stupidity", or "You can get jailed for falling down the stairs?" or something like that.
People tweeted this without reading the article. The law was submitted in Utah in hopes of preventing an indecent the state had just seen of a 17-year-old girl paying a man $150 to beat her stomach in hopes of inducing a miscarriage. The baby was born anyway, and given up for adoption. The law only forbids intentional miscarriage, and abortion is still completely legal.
The tweets lied to me today, too.
So no, I don't trust my friends for news. Yes, I trust newspapers. But my friends are a great place to start to look for news. But normal people are not dependable because they're not held accountable. Newspapers, on the other hand, are.