Lies, damn lies and statistics

In my last blog I looked at how social media becomes a way to get important information out in the public domain. But, now we must ask, can this information always be true? As journalists how do we know this information is reliable? How do we know a source is trustworthy? And is it best if we approach these alternate news sources with a little bit of skepticism?

On Friday night, we were out for a friend’s welcome home drinks. After about three bottles of wine we thought it would be a funny idea to change one of our Facebook status to “I just hooked up with Benji Marshall!!!” (well he’s cute and a football star). Not quite sure where the idea came from let alone why we thought it was a good idea in the first place, but, this is what happens in the days of social media sites ­and iPhones – gone are the drunk phone calls and welcome the drunk status update. This claim was based on nothing but a bit of a joke between friends, but the status was inundated with comments (mainly ones of congratulations). What was most surprising, were the comments from people that were merely my Facebook friend to boost friend numbers, never actually having contacted them on Facebook before. The vast amount of people that have access to what you say is incredible. My second thought was if all these people believe my story, then what is to stop a gossip columnist to take this as truth as well?

While I know this is an extreme case, and me and Benji’s alleged kiss is not going to make Famous magazine, but it still highlights an important issue for social media and journalists; what can we believe and who can we trust? Like with every source and fact, journalists must check ,check, check. While social media maybe changing the interaction of journalism, traditional values of trustworthiness, truth and creditability should not be forgotten. Despite the medium, human nature is always the same; the truth can sometimes be distorted and manipulated, people can have an agenda or motivation and people can lie.

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