When grandkids ask their grandparents, years from now, “Where were you when you heard that MIchael Jackson died?” a surprising number of them will respond, “On Twitter.” Or, on my iPhone, or my BlackBerry or my laptop.
Mobile computing technology, which grows more sophisticated all the time, and faster and faster broadband wireless networks make it incredibly easy to stay on top of the latest news, even as it is being made.
The name Michael Jackson first appeared to me today on my Facebook page from a Friend who heard he was dead. I immediately went to my Twitter feed, and one of the Tweets was from someone claiming the report of his death was on the gossip Web site TMZ.com. I clicked on the URL in the Tweet and read the story. I clicked through several news Web sites with one hand, while turning on my TV with the other and surfing through several news channels like CNN and MSNBC. None of them reported his death.
Suspicious that TMZ might eventually be proved right, but may have rolled the dice and jumped the gun, I continued searching and found that other sites reporting Jackson’s death were still just citing TMZ.com. Meanwhile, my Facebook News Feed was busy with messages from other friends looking for information and trading information about which news organization or Web site was reporting what. An hour into the breaking news event, my e-mail inbox had more than 70 new messages because I have FB messages/updates sent to me by e-mail.
While all this was going on, my cell phone was chirping with incoming text messages. I have it set up to receive CNN News Alerts via text and they had frequent updates.
You can expect to see stories in coming days about the tidal wave of Web site and Twitter traffic as news of Jackson’s death circulated. In fact, I received a “Too Many Tweets” error message at one point when trying to send a Tweet.
There has been much debate about the value of Twitter, especially when people send what I call the “I’m eating a ham sandwich” completly pointless and self-absorbed Tweets. But Twitter shows its value, just as the Internet before it and television and radio before that, by spreading news as instantly as the technology allows, in order to get information out and bring people together in a shared experience. It’s the same experience as it was for people gathered around radio sets for news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and black and white TVs to learn of John F. Kennedy’s death in 1963. (Yes, I know, Michael Jackson was not a head of state.)
Twitter has already shown its value in providing the first word for many people of news such as the Iranian election protests, the ditching of the airliner in the Hudson River and, now, Michael Jackson’s passing.
That’s something to tell the grandkids about.