October 31, 2014
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Tweeting or senseless squawking?

The urge to be first is a primal need we’ve all felt. We’ve all pushed harder in a relay race, ate faster in a pie-eating contest or studied longer to get the best grades in school. And the Olympics are perhaps the greatest reminder that coming out on top and taking the gold is the ultimate goal for any competitor.

But with today’s technology, being the first is less about physical speed or mental agility and more about using the tools of the trade most effectively.

Twitter and Facebook are fantastic outlets for sharing information and ideas, but they are also a breeding ground for competition. How? Well, which of your Facebook friends are the most pop-culture savvy and always the first to comment on today’s trends? Which news media outlet do you expect to Tweet their story (and get it right) first?

Those are the gold medallists of the social media-sphere; they garner the most attention.

It’s the immediacy in which we receive and share information that has changed the way news spreads. Take for example Friday’s storm. Texts were being sent to smart phones from the National Weather Service warning of flash floods, tornadoes and extreme rain. The first people to know about the storm grabbed their iPhones or laptops and Tweeted what they knew. Facebook news feeds were saturated with posts about the rain, the commute home and the possibility for yet another detrimental flood. With a quick glance, things seemed dire. But really, the storm subsided after just a few hours and everything returned to normal. Still, better to be safe than sorry, right? Those warnings sent via social media sites and text messages informed everyone in the path of the storm within minutes.

And then there’s the story of Sunni, the 15-month-old Macaw that flew out of her home on Thursday. Her owner, Kevin DeWolf was at a loss – where could Sunni have gone? With the help of social media, he quickly got the word out to his community. Sunni was out there, and the more people who knew she was missing, the better DeWolf’s chances of getting a lead on her whereabouts.

Sure enough, calls and texts flooded in, and the report of a strange squawking in Wethersfield Commons lead DeWolf to his beloved bird. Without the benefit of being able to reach the masses in a matter of minutes, DeWolf may have never been able to reunite with Sunni.

Social media, like any powerful thing, is best used carefully. In the wrong hands, it can spread false or damaging information in a matter of mere seconds. But if used for good, it can inform people in a way that wasn’t possible before.

Studies have shown that being first is better (in a Harvard study, more people picked an option they were initially presented with), so it’s no wonder we’ve taken that notion to the next level with the advent of social media. The first to inform and be informed are the elite. But be wary, being first doesn’t always mean being correct.


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