Posted by Nicole Sternhagen
A shooting, stabbing, and beating all in one night in the Drake Neighborhood.
Or so we thought.
The sequence of events unfolding on a Sunday night was broadcasted, play-by-play over Twitter, causing people to misinterpret, and perhaps overreact, to the crime in the area.
Twitter, using the ability to broadcast something from wherever you are, whenever it is happening, has changed the way people around the world receive and react to news.
In my personal experience, Twitter has kept me informed of the on-goings in my neighborhood and school faster than any news source out there. On one particular night, I heard about a shooting, stabbing, and beating that all supposedly happened in one night. Here is an excerpt straight from my Twitter newsfeed:
Person 1: CSI is goin down outside . . . crazy neighborhood. My roommate is a witness! 47 seconds ago
Person 2: I am enjoying the live showing of CSI outside of my house. Cops and lights all over. Dad and Mom are gonna like this 🙂 1 minute ago
Person 3: I just realized I’m a witness to a crime…this is so uncomfortable :S 5minutes ago
Person 4: I feel like I’m back in Waukegan with the craziness going on in the Drake area… 11 minutes ago (only those from the Chicago area will get this one)
Person 5: 4 police cars and a crime scene investigation van at the house two doors down….i feel safe 14 minutes ago
The tweets that occurred before the above went something like this, “police cars across from my dorm,” “stabbing in the Walgreens parking lot!” “Some guy shot his girlfriend in the apartments across the street!”
Other tweets quickly fueled the fiery gossip and the story escalated into a warped version of what had really happened.
The real story turned out to be quite a bit different, but as that story came out much later than the information on Twitter, the damage had already been done.
We need to be aware that what we tweet can have a dramatic effect on perception of events, especially serious ones. Any scenario blown out of proportion could lead to a serious overreaction. Would we be so thankful for this instant news source if it led to a panic? How much can we trust Twitter when people can post anything and everything they want on it, based off of any assumption they make?
Once again, the role of everyone as a gate keeper comes into play when it comes to social media. Journalists, already facing the colossal threat of news on the Internet are also facing the rampant world of Twitter instant rumors. Twitter allows eye-witnesses to inform followers of any danger, but sometimes all is not what it seems. Sometimes issues need to be left alone to be fully resolved before conclusions are made. Do you whip out your phone to tweet the second something interesting happens? Who defines newsworthiness? Have you ever tweeted a firsthand account of a crime?