It is no surprise that we get our daily fixes of news, celeb gossip, and new music from social media. The process of not only receiving the information faster but also regurgitating it back out to the public is beyond out of control. Yesterday, Virginia was hit with a 5.9 magnitude that was felt as far as south as Atlanta Georgia and as far north as Toronto, Ontario. Whether you actually felt it or not, or maybe the minimal damage that occurred from this incident, the bigger story is how people tweeted all the details in a matter of seconds gaining instant worldwide exposure.

Whether you have a Twitter account or are part of a small population that has no time or patience for social media, you can’t deny how widespread breaking news is communicated to the public via various online sharing sites. More than 40,000 earthquake-related tweets were sent out within a minute of the occurrence translating to 5,500 tweets per second. Say what? There were more tweets about the earthquake than Osama Bin Laden’s Death and almost on par with the devastating Japan Tsunami. Many law enforcement agencies and emergency personnel began tweeting within minutes of the earthquake in order to disseminate information to the public. Here is sample of the tweets that surfaced within seconds of it happening:

Now before we starting shutting down local newspapers we should see the flipside of these statistics. Sure, anything in real-time is more exciting then finding out about an event the—dare I say—next day. But you also have to consider that with this multitude of information spewing from people’s accounts, not all of it is correct.  Maybe someone reports a celebrity death before any confirmed reports of that death are released which sends their followers into a tweeting frenzy.

Finding out credible sources within Twitter may be difficult but all you have to look at is whom you’re following. Before re-tweeting anything, you should do a general search about the subject to verify what is happening. Providing links to where and when you found that information is more credible then saying your sister’s best friends husband’s coworker told you.  Also searching hashtags about the subject will stream for you all the tweets about that particular topic e.g. #earthquake.

Twitter Lists

News organizations are trying to stay ahead of the game by using Twitter lists. It’s a way of grouping together people you’re following on Twitter so you can get an overview on what they’re up to. They are timelines you build yourself consisting of friends, family, co-workers, and sports teams or breaking news.  The NY Times has created a list consisting of their staff of over 100 people.  Not only do you get significant information but you’re also know it’s a credible source.

News organizations create lists for events providing their audience with a resource of Twitter users for specific events. Instead of using public hashtags that are open to spammers, they can create lists only for their particular users. CNN used lists to feature the politicians that were running for election at the time so that they can inform the public at a moments notice what the candidates were saying, where they were and where they were heading.

We can’t deny the direction in which the world is heading.  The new obstacles of finding correct and relevant information were non-existent when all you had to do was purchase the morning newspaper to get your news. This time-sensitive approach to news on the go is what propels people to be engaged in worldwide events as well as irrelevant celebrity gossip.  Twitter provides connectivity to a mass audience faster than ever and new features are always being implemented to refine this process. Don’t toss away that newspaper just yet because News is News, no matter which way you prefer to receive it.