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As The World Tweets

July 31, 2009

I’ve liked the possibilities I saw in Social Media for quite awhile. At first I enjoyed the interactive and (admittedly) somewhat melodramatic role it in people’s social lives. But in the last two months, it has developed another more profound face. I’ve been floored by the role that humble little Twitter has played in the Iranian Election Crisis.

Since early June, the world press corps has been shut down in reporting the events unfolding in this politically volatile and strategically significant country. For weeks, Twitter WAS the media. It has also served as a direct link among those who sought information when none was available and participants who had no way to voice their struggle or contact their family and friends outside Iran.

To be sure, watching the Twitter stream isn’t the same as watching CNN.  As my son-in-law, Erik (a new-era journalist – @erikeisele), pointed out, the Twitter stream of information isn’t the same as AP news feed: the facts haven’t been checked out or independently confirmed.  “How do you know when to trust what a Tweeter says,” he asked.

I had to admit, it was a great point. You can’t – at least not always, but that doesn’t negate the power of the stream. What it does mean is that users need to exercise a good deal of brain power to sort and evaluate the words that are being Tweeted, the pictures being displayed and the videos that claim to be reliable renditions of what is happening. Wow … that means you REALLY have to think about what’s being presented to you.

Having thought about that for a bit, I fired off a Tweet Quip to Erik. “How do you know when to trust a president?”

I wasn’t being flippant, I mean that. We saw our nation parade off to war based upon information provided to us by a first class news media. Our nation and a large part of the world had been thoroughly bamboozled by a White House which intentionally used the media as it’s personal propaganda machine. With no small measure of embarrassment, I recall telling my skeptical daughters a few years ago that based upon the facts presented, we, as a nation, couldn’t afford to take the chance that the weapons of mass destruction being stockpiled in Iraq would be used against us or any other nation in the world. Perhaps if I had had what Hemingway called his “built in crap detector” working … but I didn’t. Nor did most of us.

Today, the Iranians are bitterly split and caught in clashes that the world has only been able to observe through 140 character mini-messages. No one can predict the ultimate outcome of their struggle, but it is being reported in Tweets and the validity of Social Media as something more than kids swapping howdy doo’s is now established.

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