This point came to me this evening when I saw that there had been a Twitter rumour about Margaret Thatcher dying. This isn’t the first time that this rumour has circulated around Twitter and it comes a day after rumours that Prince Philip was suspected to be very ill.
These sorts of rumours are not doing Twitter any good. Social media, particularly Twitter, has stormed ahead in the last year or so in bringing breaking news from all over the globe to the ordinary person long before our news channels pick up the story and, indeed, people use Twitter as a way of keeping up with the news rather than trawling news sites. Twitter has the added advantage of its social side so while you’re checking up on the news you can also be catching up with friends whether they are Twitter friends or real life friends.
We know Twitter works because there are so many people using it from the ordinary person on the street to sports stars, politicians, actors and even leaders of political parties, presidents and prime ministers of various countries. No one wants to miss out on what’s going on and the chance to share their news with their followers.
So, as I said before, Twitter has become the place to be for the latest news…until you start getting the rumours. I Googled “Twitter death rumours” and it seems you’re not anyone these days unless you’ve had a Twitter death rumour. Reese Witherspoon had one where she was apparently stabbed. The Pope has had a death rumour, Denzel Washington, Fidel Castro, Assad, Rowan Atkinson, Kim Jong-Un…oh the list goes on and was today joined by the Margaret Thatcher death hoax Tweets.
Regardless of how you feel about any of the individuals on the list above, the death rumours are only going to serve to do damage to social media, Twitter in particular. I’ve already read on Twitter tonight, a few times, that people are going to be more cautious about what they do when they see a Tweet announcing the death of someone. I believe that a few media typed re-tweeted today’s Tweets about Thatchers death.
Personally, I think it’s best to always exercise caution when I see a Tweet about someone being seriously ill or being dead. It’s something that comes naturally to me as a person who was taught never to leap two feet into something without assessing the situation first. Not just on Twitter but in life and work.
The sad thing is, if these Twitter rumours increase and people start to lose faith then Twitter loses its lead in bringing people news before the news channels and people start to wait on the news channels to confirm what they’re reading on Twitter.
With so many users, Twitter will never be rumour free but I would hate to see it lose its edge because of them.