Monday, April 19, 2010

Has twitter stopped urban myths?

Has twitter stopped urban myths?

The current travel chaos in Europe, caused by the potential danger of volcanic ash to aircraft jet engines, is creating a huge demand for news, and, you'd have thought, urban myths.

Urban myths are created in times of great worry and concern, often as cautionary tales, filling vacuums in the availability or hard facts. For example, after the 7/7 bombings in London there was a persistant myth (totally untrue) that a suicide bomber had been shot in Canary Wharf.

This week I have heard no myths about the travel chaos, I suspect because of the new structure of the 'live' web, and because people are doing their own reporting through Facebook and twitter.

These days there's no real place for the 'one of my neighbours told me...' stories, because so many people have a voice themselves. In the case of the Canary Wharf story, there would now be several twitter users in Canary Wharf debunking the story, and questioning the person who originally put it around.

Today any stories that might have been invented, or misreported would be contradicted and disproved very quickly.

Say someone started a perfectly plausible story on the lines of 'Ferries in France are demanding €300 in cash to let people on'. It wouldn't have legs these days unless it were true. (Which it isn't - I made it up).

7/7 was nearly 5 years ago. I used to think that twitter & Facebook would have stoked up the fear and hysteria; in fact it seems that they would have dissipated it.


Tom Callard said...

Interesting thought. I agree it means they may not have legs, and it may not take long for rumours to be disproved, but I think the reverse is that they spread very fast and won't entirely be killed off once they have travelled around the world.

With the Volcano, the example must be the rumour which sprang up that the second volcano exploded.
When there is a black-hole of information now, it is far more rapidly filled than before. I suppose it mean there is a higher turn-over of rumours, and many will no doubt stick as our ability verify the truth of the information is reduced as it is retweeted.

Dan said...

I agree that there will be a higher turnover of rumours, as the news agenda moves much more quickly now. The '2nd Eruption' example is a very good one.

This morning there was lots of comment on the radio and elsewhere about the government being too cautious - it would have been ok to fly after all according to some sources.

So you'll still get differing opinions, but I still think that any points which are demonstrably false will get seen as such very quickly.

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