It’s interesting to read about what groups are capable of in social media by beginning the reading with 1.) a philosophy, 2.) a judge’s words and 3.) a piece of history.
Yet that’s exactly how chapter 7 of “Faster and Faster” addresses what groups of capable of, by discussing the historical event of group protests in 1989 East Germany (another surprise: when my skimming eyes saw “East Germany” in a chapter about what groups are capable of, that was not my first guess of the year we would be discussing).
As the readings continue, the discussion shifts to the use of flash mobs, which as you can guess, eventually turned to social media, posting on Livejournal. The concept of flash mobs, a very tongue-in-cheek, spontaneous but planned group effort doesn’t come across as very shocking, but perhaps very useful.
Perhaps media outlets are not flash mobs, per say, but we are equally as capable of producing very orchestrated social media that come across as very spontaneous. Granted, the use of these flash mobs was used more so to rebel against a repressive government. Something that carried on after 2006, with many groups and individuals using social media during future coups in Egypt and other parts of the Arab Spring.
But even when not in political tensions, it feels like this concept can be put to use greatly. Take for instance, the media during last night’s Super Bowl game.
Many people watched as JC Penny began tweeting slurred words and phrases during the football game, many people scoffed at whoever was behind its social media account, accusing whoever that promotions individual of being “drunk.”
Today? The Washington Post has called the stupor tweeting “pure brilliance” as its own promotions campaign. Had the social media director of JC Penney had a few too many? Maybe. But it likely was a very orchestrated action, enjoying the game as many Americans were, while drawing attention to its own brand.
Whether journalists are producing action as a group in a seemingly spontaneous but really orchestrated way, such as reporting violence and resistance in countries like Egypt, Turkey and across the Arab Spring to promote a message, or whether companies like JC Penney, Coke and Cherios are using campaigns to make advertisements “that are really just about a family,” “Really a group of individual people just singing about America,” or stealing the spotlight to bring brand recognition, modern “flash mobs” can certainly be seen all across the board.
Similar to “Faster and Faster,” the chapter on “Managing a News Conversation” began talking about a day before the internet, focusing on Ed Murrow. More and more, we want to be able to discuss how we see the world through our reporting. The problem, of course, is that in our tweets, our blogs and even Facebook posts, that interpretation of the world in our own opinions can seep out.
As the readings point out, some of us would rather hear a lecture, or give a lecture, than actually have that conversation. Being someone who outreaches is hard. We’re doing the writing, we’re doing the editing, we want all the answers.
However, as the reading points out, this has become even more important. Comments sections have turned into entire social media outlets. People want to share their reaction to your reaction. People want to show how misinformed you are about using “Anti-abortion” instead of “pro-life” or give you an extra tip on that feature you spent three weeks researching how to make the perfect turkey, and so on and so forth.
For better or worse, news outlets and their commentators are, for the most part, protected by the court when it comes to comment sections and outreach. Anonymous posters cannot be restricted if there is no outright wrongdoing (threats, harm, etc). While this is frustrating, as I have seen many small-minded brains and bullies just in my own hometown weekly newspaper’s “talk back” section, I understand the slippery slope of it all: if we restrict some anonymous speech in these forums or comments sections, we restrict free speech. So I’d rather a small sacrifice for the greater good.