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Is Real Time News On Social Networks Good For Us?

I still watch the evening news. I know, I’m in the minority here, but I still have Walter Cronkite in my heart, and feel like the evening network news is the definitive truth of the world. Because, of course, in the past nobody reported anything before they knew it was true.

Unlike now.

I’m not saying that there were never rumors or mistakes before the advent of the internet. There were. But near daily some story flies around twitter that someone is dead, or someone else is in rehab, or SOMETHING that could not possibly be less true.

The side effect of real time news? There is WAY more bullsh*t out there.

As we head into another election season, this is only going to get worse. The site Midwest Democracy discusses how most campaigns this year will be putting 10% of their budget into social media efforts, and much of that could be spent chasing down and fighting rumors rather than actually, you know, DISCUSSING THE ISSUES.

A well-crafted lie that goes viral the week before an election could affect outcomes.

That’s the dark side of social media — “there’s more libel, more defamation, more urban myths and harmful information getting out,” said David L. Hudson Jr., of the First Amendment Center, a think tank that advocates the tenets of our first freedoms. “I don’t like to sound like a censor, I’m for free speech. But I am concerned about this open spreading of rumors … and the rushing to judgment.”

Did you know that the urge to share information you’ve heard on the internet before it’s been verified has a name? It’s FOMO, “the fear of missing out.” In our rush to be the first to break a story, many of us don’t spend a lick of time to either check Snopes or CNN to see if there is any truth to it.

The good news, of course, is that eventually the truth DOES prevail. Nor can we deny the benefits of real time media in doing things like helping family members stay in touch during a crisis, or finding lost pets, or many other beneficial things think pink slime, for instance.

But I still love my end of the day with the old tried and true media, knowing that much fact checking has gone into those reports. And, occasionally, I do hear somethings there first. Once in a while.

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