Swine flu spreads through the social networking sites

Posted: May 5, 2009 in The future
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

little-pig1

I found it impossible to escape the news about Swine flu, now called H1N1 influenza A as I pondered what to blog, it’s on everyone’s minds, lips, tweets,  and status updates…

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) as of 06:00 GMT, 5 May 2009, 21 countries have officially reported 1124 cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection. Mexico has reported 25 deaths and United States has reported one death. How does this link to the blog? Well, the H1N1 flu virus is too being rapidly spread through the social networking and media wires.

Yet this is not the first time the internet has been the one-stop shop for news scoops. Twitter has emerged as a source for major breaking news stories. Like the earthquake that devastated the Sichuan region of China, tweets from the disaster zone gave the rest of the world its first glimpse of the scope of the devastation. Again we saw how social network sites took the forefront when  there were media events that were driven by the web 2.0 e.g Mumbai terror attacks, plane crash in Hudson river etc.

Over the plethora of social networking websites, people from all sorts of backgrounds are blogging, twittering, facebooking and myspacing about the flu virus. Twitter has once again gained media attention as a source of fervent ‘swine’ flu discussion, it’s become the top trending topic on Twitter, with users rapidly tweeting about the latest (Twitter even topped out at a rate of more than 10,000 tweets per hour earlier during the course of last week).

Yes granted many ‘swine’ flu updates were making crude jokes, like SA’s own advertising upcoming guru Khaya Dlanga’s tweet updates, “Swine flu my ass, I’ll bring my mighty vengeance & furious anger upon these pigs. Had bacon for breakfast. For lunch, something with pig” or “If I hear one more thing about Swine flu I’ll go eat a pig”.

This proves that social networking sites can be as misleading, however a significant portion of the discussions about the flu seemed to centre around a legitimate desire to connect with others and talk about real issues. This created a some what tight knit community that wanted to speak about what is happening in the world.

New media vs old media

Google Trends reports that “Swine Flu Ohio” is the 27th most popular search keyword currently, with searches for “Swine Flu Symptoms” also making the top 100 keyword searches on Google.

google-trends

Google Maps have also been created to chart the spread of the Swine Flu. Below is a Google Map created by a bio medical engineer, this charts suspect and confirmed cases of the Swine Flu in the U.S. and Mexico.

h1n1-swine-flu-google-maps

Technorati has graphed the number of times the term was used in blog posts and it shows that the mention of Swine Flu rose sharply from Friday to nearly 2800 blog post demonstrates.

This for me, shows the power of the internet but most importantly the power of social networking and media sites. People from every corner of the globe are conversing about something that doesn’t affect them directly however it now part of their community discussions. These new media tools have gone beyond reporting on a particular story to what people want to say about particular issues. Now it is and it is creating some independence and democracy with audiences.

Granted only a few people have internet access to the but  the minority engage instanteously with the rest of the world. And in this case new media tools helped to support and deliver public health messages quickly and broadly and how to track such viruses.

Old media in trouble?

However, I think  the role of new media may overshadow traditional journalism and it can cause a form of tension in newsrooms because now journalists are trusting social network sites for scoops in the land of social media.

New media tools have become the new hybrid form of journalism, they are quick and everywhere on the web unlike traditional forms of journalism.

So is the traditional notion and value of hard core journalism being apprehended?

I think not, social netowrking and media sites can be complementary to old media. They just need to verify facts. Journalism and new media tools need each other to inform and educate the world. In the future when more outbreaks such as swine flu occur social media can help out traditional journalism. Futureye signing out.

Related link:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/opinion/2385466/Swine-flu-story-a-media-beat-up

Blog last updated and corrected on the  27th May 2009

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s