IC 167: This Isn’t Just Social Media
On Mar 22, 2012
Or at least that’s where my boat is at this moment.
All despite the fact that almost everyone I know in the communications industry is writing paeans about why every brand even from Neptune should be jostling for earth’s social media bustle.
While experts continue to tumble out of every igloo in Cyberia and profess their special bacon and beans about social hype etc., I am slightly reminded of the five blind men and the elephant.
Everyone seems to have a convincing idea on what the elephant is all about - based on what they are touching. Just that no one seems to be seeing the whale.
For something that’s been consistently evolving into a humungous idea and will mutate with every app that gets barnacled on to it, I am pretty sure even Zuckerberg learns something new every morning.
FB certainly isn’t what it was a couple of years back. And I don’t think it will stay like this a few years from now.
While FB and Twitter will remain defined as social media, I don’t think that slant and affliction will change.
After all it’s where you and I will get to meet and make friends across our city, cities, country, countries, and every possible corner of the world.
And where we will continue to talk, speak, comment, rebut, criticise, remark, observe, cajole, tease, whistle, laugh, and share every bit and more of anything that’s interesting.
Right now, it’s a giant virtual lounge bar of global friends - 24x7. It could well be the perfect and typical description of social media.
However, I have a simpler and life impacting point to make. About the hidden strength of this huge technological behemoth.
My perspective is narrow. Very narrow actually. It’s something that I have been suspecting for some time.
Maybe the sample size of my research is overwhelmingly miniscule. But I suppose the gut deserves a voice, however singular.
Besides, I am also a layman. I am a very ordinary ant like you.
It’s an important and fascinating qualification that makes me, you, and every other ordinary ant on the 3rd rock prime audience for experts.
Eventually, it’s our collective behaviour and habits that will find top mention in the insight studies of social media analysts.
With around 700 million people on Facebook country now turned continent, the sheer size of this population has some serious implications than mere social chatter value.
I was also a devout follower and preacher of the regular larger social philosophy until a few days back. But then, everything changed in an instant.
1.10 pm, 5th of March to be precise.
Seconds after the earthquake rattled Haryana, and I felt it shake its way through my Delhi home, Facebook and Twitter suddenly came alive with messages.
‘Earthquake!!!!’, ‘Was that an earthquake?’, ‘Did anyone else feel that?’, ‘Help!!…my office is shaking!!!!’.
A flurry of earthquake messages, from sheer terror to affected spirituality burst into my phone screen. It was like a flash flood.
One became two, two became ten, ten become hundred, and then, there was no stopping it. People commented, shared, wrote on each other’s walls, tagged, and the news spread like a wild blaze on LSD.
That’s when I got converted. My epiphany moment. Social media isn’t, wasn’t, and couldn’t be just social media. It had to be pure media.
This was the place where breaking news first broke. And how.
By then, if I were a half infected twit, I’d have been tweeted out of my skin by the tweet happy lot of India.
They would have relayed the 5.2 Richter scale event worldwide faster than any television channel.
Think about it. This is a game changer of a thought.
Barring a few things that still cannot be streamed live, social media is actually the mother of all media.
It has the latent power to become the world’s largest citizen led news media platform. Therefore, Live Citizen TV, if they haven’t planned it already, is a technical viability and a commercial possibility.
With hundreds of millions of mobile phone users swarming the world, the funnels for social media will always be there to catch live news as it breaks.
They’d be right there, seeing as it happens, watching it unravel into life, and posting it to a torrent that will instantaneously break on our connected walls.
Whether it’s a typhoon lashing the Philippines, a revolution brewing in remote Africa, a game becoming a classic at the Emirates, or an ungainly Angelina leg poking out at the Oscars.
Social media channels are awesome. There just can’t be a faster place and platform for unique, original, and fresh news to break and breed worldwide.
Come to think of it, you and I have been slowly seeing this power of FB across some time. We have seen it almost every other day.
It may have hit us on occasions, but we probably didn’t give it too much attention. Social kerfuffle is a strong blinker, and keeps us engaged and comfortably numb.
We’d have been on FB waffling our way through peer recommended music, films, cars, bikes, recipes, and holiday options, when breaking news happened and washed up on our screens.
I remember that I was on FB when I got to know about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
That was almost an hour before regular breaking news fractured itself on to the nimblest of television channels.
I was on FB when a friend from New York shared Obama’s announcement that justice has been delivered at Abbottabad. The man who unknowingly tweeted the story as it happened is legendary.
I was on FB when friends kept posting a running commentary of disgust, despair, and disillusionment when Gurgaon’s Metallica concert went kaput.
I was also on FB when a TV journo buddy of mine posted the news that someone had slapped Union Minister Sharad Pawar.
And across all these incidents, I was nowhere close to a TV, or anything else that could have brought me live or even delayed coverage.
Unlike TV and every other traditional medium, social media goes everywhere with you.
It is handy, mobile, interactive, and completely independent of bulky 46-inch television LED screens or airwaves.
You could be anywhere; yet you could be aware and notified of anything of consequence that happens across the planet just about instantaneously.
There are potential reporters with a mobile right where a car overturns. Where a celeb punches someone, where a leader makes a silly gaff, or where frogs collectively decide to speak English.
If the world ever wanted a platform that could connect its entire peace loving people and provide them an early warning system, this would just about be it.
We would end up having that extra time to find cover from oncoming tsunamis, or locust attacks, or air raids, or even belligerent alien mushrooms.
Who knows what tomorrow will create in its factory? Or how it plans to ambush us?
With a little more time and with cheaper devices for all, the whole connected world would well sit in your pocket.
And with cleverer and smarter thinking, from within and without FB and Twitter, who knows what this breaking news angle could turn out to be.
While we’d all go back, browse, and build social media into the most critical space for brands, music, movies, blogs, articles, hobbies, craft, networking etc., the real news power of social media will amplify every morning with every event.
For politicians, for leaders, for doctors, for police, for thieves, for commandos, for students, for parents, for priests, for detectives and for everyone living.
It holds real value. It holds the power to update us real time. And it holds incredible real life potential. No matter who you are and where you peck on the hierarchy ladder.
It’s a launch pad for extreme contagion. Both positive and negative. It’s the mothership. Aircraft carrier. Bang in the middle of the digital ocean.
And oh incidentally, I was on FB the other day when Virat Kohli singlehandedly took India to a pride resurrection exercise against Pakistan at Dhaka.
I was stranded in place without a TV. But FB on my mobile gave me a real, and curated ball-by-ball run of the game till the end. Including the fireworks.