Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

You can subscribe to this site via RSS (the humanity!) or .

Being Part of the Story

Yesterday morning I laid in bed and watched Twitter fly by. It was somewhere around 7am and lots of crazy things had happened overnight in Boston between the police and the marathon bombers. I don’t remember exactly where things were in the series of events when I woke up, but while I was watching the still-on-the-loose suspect’s name was released for the first time. As reports started to come in and then, later, get confirmed, people on Twitter did the same thing as me: They started Googling.

As I watched the tiny facts we all uncovered start to turn up in the stream (he was a wrestler, he won a scholarship from the city of Cambridge, he had a link to a YouTube video) I was brought back to an idea I first came across in Bill Wasik’s excellent And Then There’s This. In the book he posits that as a culture we’ve become more obsessed with how a things spreads than the thing itself. He uses the success of Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point to help make the point:

Underlying the success of The Tipping Point and its literary progeny [Freakonomics] is, I would argue, the advent of a new and enthusiastically social-scientific way of engaging with culture. Call it the age of the the model: our meta-analyses of culture (tipping points, long tails, crossing chasms, ideaviruses) have come to seem more relevant and vital than the content of culture itself.

Everyone wanted to be involved in “the hunt,” whether it was on Twitter and Google for information about the suspected bomber, on the TV where reporters were literally chasing these guys around, or the police who were battling these two young men on a suburban street. Watching the new tweets pop up I got a sense that the content didn’t matter as much as the feeling of being involved, the thrill of the hunt if you will. As Wasik notes, we’ve entered an age where how things spread through culture is more interesting than the content itself.

To be clear, I’m not saying this is a good or a bad thing (I do my best to stay away from that sort of stuff), but it’s definitely a real thing and an integral part of how we all experience culture today. When I opened the newspaper this morning it was as much to see how much I knew and how closely I’d followed as it was to learn something new about the chase. After reading the cover story that recounted the previous day’s events I turned to Brian Stetler’s appropriately titled News Media and Social Media Become Part of a Real-Time Manhunt Drama.

April 20, 2013 // This post is about: , , ,

Comments

  • Rachel says:

    I had the opposite reaction. I stayed away, as from previous experience it was going to a wrong name, or what you would find would be someone else. On these, I tend to drop back into mainstream media as they have fact checking processes to get the story and the background, and use social to get a sense of what is happening, but look at everything with a very big pinch of salt.

  • barbara says:

    I agree. I was totally fed up with all the TV news, which had pretty much nothing to say but stayed on the air all day. All the most interesting info was coming from Twitter; in fact, the networks were admittedly getting their news from Twitter, including the news of the capture, tweeted by both the police and mayor of Boston before they spoke to reporters.

  • The social media tail mustn’t wag the MSM dog | Felix Salmon says:

    [...] in this particular case, as Noah Brier points out in a post headlined “Being Part of the Story”, it’s something that [...]

  • The social media tail mustn’t wag the MSM dog « Tony Rocha Official Blog says:

    [...] in this particular case, as Noah Brier points out in a post headlined “Being Part of the Story”, it’s something that millions of [...]

  • The social media tail mustn’t wag the MSM dog – Axis News says:

    [...] in this particular case, as Noah Brier points out in a post headlined “Being Part of the Story”, it’s something that millions of [...]

  • The social media tail mustn’t wag the MSM dog | Social Media Strategy Plan says:

    [...] in this particular case, as Noah Brier points out in a post headlined “Being Part of the Story”, it’s something that millions of [...]

  • Matt says:

    If only we could get this level of involvement when a child goes missing.

  • Aaron says:

    I completely agree! Normally if I see a piece of news on Twitter, I watch the news to verify the facts. This time I noticed that not only were stories breaking sooner on Twitter, but there was much more detail in Tweets about the actual scenes in Boston.

    I was in an evening class of Friday night when the final scene in Watertown was taking place. The rate at which my classmates and I were refreshing Twitter feeds on our phones must have looked rather odd. After class we mentioned that the guest speaker probably thought we were all picking at something or scraping the tables.

  • Leave a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Don't sweat it.