When a tweet isn’t the truth

Posted on January 17, 2013

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post for this digital literacy series about the smartphone addicted Gen Y. For the purpose of today’s post, here are some of the most interesting tidbits from that post:

  • Four out of five respondents (81%) believe people have different online and offline identities.
  • Less than 50% said their offline and online identities are the same.

In July, I wrote a post that included stats indicating that people are increasingly relying on social media to stay informed on current events. Again, here’s the most interesting stat from that post:

Respondent’s attitudes toward accuracy of news gathered using social media tools were interesting. Almost half (49.6%) rate news gathered via social media sources as “roughly the same” or “more accurate” than traditional news sources in terms of accuracy.

Keep these stats in mind as you read on. This week, social media’s widespread accessibility collided with the growing perception that what you read online is true. And the results are messy and confusing – and even somewhat sad.

Credit: miicard.com

Credit: miicard.com

The twitterverse is calling foul on a college football story that, by the sounds of it, was destined to become an inspirational sports movie. In case you haven’t heard this story yet, here’s the synopsis:

Manti Te’o, a linebacker for the University of Notre Dame’s football team, played an amazing 2012 season, returning his team to the winning books. He did this despite a tragic personal life that included the September deaths of his grandma and girlfriend, only days apart. Then, a bombshell.

Yesterday Deadspin.com published a story labeling the dead girlfriend story a hoax. In fact, the story’s authors say they can find no proof the girlfriend even existed. And yet, there were chats between Te’o and his girlfriend on Twitter and such reputable sports media as ESPN and Sports Illustrated reported on her death. From here it all gets weird because representatives from Notre Dame say Te’o was the victim of an elaborate on and offline hoax. Reactions to the story are coming in fast and furious on social media and seem to be mixed.

It’s a crazy story and I encourage you to follow the links above to read more about it.

Whatever the truth, this story calls attention to one of the most fascinating aspects of life online. All it takes is a legitimate email address and you can reinvent yourself on Twitter or Facebook. In today’s world, a digital footprint brings instant legitimacy, while a lack of one breeds suspicion. And yet, at the same time, the stats above suggest that at least with my generation, it’s expected that some of who we are online is more persona than true representation.

About Kelly Ferrier

Kelly Ferrier is Editor/Community Manager at communicatto. Her love of the written word has taken her into a number of industries. This diverse writing background means there's no subject she can't turn into a compelling story. From blog posts and social media community management, to magazine articles and annual reports, Kelly writes copy that captures reader attention and holds it until the final word. When she’s away from her computer, you can find her embarking on mountain adventures, cooking weird and wonderful vegetarian meals or practicing hot yoga.

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