Where were you when you heard that a team of Navy SEALs had killed Osama Bin Laden? Many answers include “on Facebook” or “on Twitter,” which proves a point I start every social media class with: The Internet is not just a medium, it is a place. The more you can grasp this concept, the more you can apply the benefits of being in this new place.
Much of the news media awoke to Twitter on January 15th, 2009 when @JKrums used the camera on his iPhone, shared a photo and tweeted “There’s a plane going down in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.” Since then, more and more people have decided to have the news follow them with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
We may have watched the president on television that Sunday night, but the Washington Post among other news outlets started streaming the preparations for the speech on their web site once word of the conference got out, nearly 90 minutes prior. The video was from the static camera in the Grand Hall of the White House. Secret Service and broadcast technicians ran through their pre-conference checks while the audience grew.
When the President spoke, Twitter was, if you’ll pardon the pun, atwitter, with more than 4,000 tweets per second. Facebook was rocking as well. We each sought relevant content – seeking which questions we wanted answered in a way we wanted to hear it. This is, for now, an advantage that social media adds to what we were watching on television. We turned to news organization and each other in that place called the Internet.
City University of New York professor Jeff Jarvis popularized the idea of the Internet as being a place where people meet, learn, act, react and transact. The more I focus on this concept, the more I find it the one single key to helping people differentiate and understand the power of social interaction on the Internet. [More on this concept].
While the Navy SEALs were carrying out their mission, the activities were being tweeted by others within Pakistan. It was by people who didn’t fully understand what they were seeing in that resort community. When news started to leak out that Sunday evening, parents started looking over their tech-savvy kids’ shoulders to get the latest news from credible sources and comments from friends. While the parents were peering over those shoulders, the lights were going on above their heads: they could finally see what their kids saw in social media – and what many of them have been avoiding for years: the power of live-time interaction; of a narrative being developed and built not by one news source, but by many. The mosaic of the story developed before their very eyes, and many, for the first time opened their eyes to the possibilities of what “could be” with real-time, Internet-based storytelling.
The Internet is now officially a place, and it happened on Sunday, May 1, 2011.
As my friend, network news videographer James Long (@NewMediaJim) who was covering the tornados in Alabama that night tweeted: “This is one of those nights where you’ll remember where you were when you heard the news.”
You were on the Internet.