Social media is really fast because there are so many participants. It’s also fast because one person telling a few others is simplified. The social media are a crowd and when one person says something then others repeat what they have just heard to find out what has happened.
Within a few minutes the crowd knows what is going on. The difference is that whereas the crowd standing at a street corner five years ago would have spread it would have spread at the speed of the telephone and the rate at which people can move around.
Now what I think is interesting is to look at the theme of globalisation and social media, how both the local crowd and the international crowd are using the same tools. If something big happens in one country and there’s enough interest then it gets international interest.
The fact that people post pictures on flickr, videos on youtube and tweet as soon as they know something means that information is easily distributed without the accuracy being checked. In other words you’ll have hundreds of images of an event but will there be any captions or analysis?
The role of the audience will change with social media, and it’s been discussed frequently If everyone has a voice and everyone distributes their content of an event then the reporter is no longer processing they’re receiving. It’s the blog reader, the twitter watcher and the picture viewer.
Having access to all this information is great because we can get a good feeling for the ambiance on the ground at the location where certain events take place but one question remains. Who has the time to look through every blog post, see every tweet and look at every image?
You’re the same people that don’t have time to chat on twitter, or seesmic or work through the whole of your rss reader. You’re immersed in it. How is the everyday public going to react when 20 minutes a day on facebook is too much for them?
Disclaimer: This post was written in 2008.