In Praise of Social Media

Over the last several days I have been desperate for information on the Chariot Fire east of San Diego.  This brush fire destroyed the campground next to ours and came right up to our gates, so it was touch in go for several days to see if we would lose it.

I am often disdainful of social media but the best up to date source of information, bar none, for me was the Brush Fire Partyline started on a Facebook page.  It was a fabulous resource in a news situation when the local media was often 12 hours behind the story and official government announcements were at least 24 hours tardy.  (If you click through and their header image has not changed, you will see the red burned area stop just short of Laguna Campground, the campground we operate.

  • Matthew Bohnert

    Hi Warren. Glad to hear everything (seems?) to be going well despite the impending fire.
    Another "delay" common in mainstream media - besides the reporting of actual facts themselves - is the analysis of the information and summary of conclusions.
    A recent example of this is the Asiana plane crash at SFO. If you peruse a number of the more well-attended Internet aviation forums, you will find a wealth of information and perspective from pilots who know the people involved, can speak well from past experience, and combine publicly-released information along with their inside knowledge to piece together remarkably rich and well-informed conclusions in short order.
    Then, about 1 week later, you read 50% of what they have already determined in some mainstream media publication....usually citing their in-house "aviation experts". And often getting it wrong, and having to retract it later.

  • marque2
  • bigmaq1980

    Traveling as I do for work, I found myself in a large mid-western city during a tornado watch. It turns out that there were several confirmed tornadoes. I found that NEXRAD's radar from WeatherUnderground (wunderground.com) was more informative and timely in showing the areas most at risk than the local news as all the news programs would frequently jump around multiple areas leaving significant gaps between reports of the area we were specifically located.

    Fortunately, no tornadoes made there way near by, but they were close enough. In the end, we were better able to make an informed decision on our course of action vs taking cover unnecessarily for lack of specificity with the local news (with obvious distress that would cause).

    Yes, social media, and more generally, the internet, greatly improves the information available to us, in good times, and in times of uncertainty/concern, particularly when lined up against those who we have traditionally relied on and expect to provide the service.

    A similar rationale exists for going beyond the traditional media for understanding today's reality, especially since the 2008 financial crisis the media so helpfully gave us all a heads up on...not! Even at risk of confirmation bias.