By Ken Cynar, Exec VP, Governance and Accountability Institute
Social media is fun, entertaining, but not always accurate, responsible or helpful. As a communications tool, distributor of information, and platform for free speech, it is simultaneously a boom and a curse on society. Here is the latest.
Several days ago Yellowstone National Park experienced several tremors and a 4.8 earthquake. Not all that unusual for that part of the country. Preceding the earthquake Leo Leckie, a sales associate of the nonprofit Yellowstone Assn., an educational partner of Yellowstone National Park, filmed an impressive video of a herd of Buffalo scampering through the snow at Yellowstone…apparently for the fun of it. (Animals fleeing Yellowstone spark fears of volcanic eruption, RTUS
But what happen next is laughable, except it highlights the flaws of the social media communications system. (Yellowstone bison-on-run video wrongly triggers volcanic eruption fear, LA Times) What Leckie terms “eruptionists and conspiracists” pirated the video and suggested that the buffalo were running because of the earthquakes and perhaps the big one was on the way. The story was picked up by media outlets and the danger of an imminent major eruption took off. They termed the eruption as being one that could end all of mankind on earth.
Here is the chain: Video of buffalo running into Yellowstone; eruptions take place a few weeks later; “Eruptionists and conspiracists” pirate to indicate that the buffalo were running away from the earthquake; the video goes from 20 hits to over 90,000; major media does stories on the threat to the country and the world…and of course I rant about it.
The power of social media as a force for good should not be belittled, but its flaws include faceless nameless people, creating, twisting and manufacturing news. It creates false fears, damages reputation, embarrasses people and nations, deflates egos and in the “wrong” hands it can be a propaganda tool to feed our prejudices and endanger our freedoms.
Regulate it…certainly not! But view it with a critical eye, absolutely. As we try to build a sustainable society, protect our resources, our people and our future, we need a foundation of truth and accuracy. Social media can be a key tool, but also a chink in our armor.
Now, did I show you the new pictures on Facebook I posted of my grand kids?
That’s the way I see it!