For we are many…

I love Twitter.

Since those first nervous posts a few years ago I’ve gone on to be something of an addict. In that time I’ve made friends whom I now regard as significant in my life although we may only have met in person on a couple of occasions – some never at all. I’ve witnessed marriage proposals, several emerging author friends sign major book deals, Stephen Fry stuck in a lift, breaking stories reported before news crews could get there, and tragically a friend returning home to find his wife had passed away. Whoever thought that so much could be said in 140 characters?

It occurred to me this morning how subtly the micro-blogging service has actually infiltrated and altered modern society. Over a hearty (attacky) breakfast with a friend we discussed the appointment of the latest manager of the England football team. Many in the press had expected another chap to get the job and when he didn’t there was an outcry that the people’s choice had been overlooked. Twitter on the other hand gave the people the chance to represent themselves and many were quite happy with the new man. Whether that will remain the case once the team starts playing is another question entirely. What it brought out though was how media outlets have spoken on behalf of ‘the people’ for years, mostly without bothering to actually talk to any of them. Social media now allows us to call them on that, and it’s going to be interesting to see how they adapt to the new journalistic landscape.

It’s not just the news that is under pressure from the masses. Reviewers need to up their game too. Gizmodo ran a story this morning about how Amazon customer reviews appear more accurate than professional ones. It reported that a study conducted at Harvard found that, when taken as a whole, the scores given by customers in their reviews proved as reliable as those found in the major magazines and newspapers, but with customers being more lenient on new authors and less dazzled by award winners. Having worked in bookshops I know that publishers are very keen for prominence to be given to their established stars even when their work isn’t as good as it could be. Having also been part of a movement that supported new emerging talent I’ve also been party to talking up writers who are still young in their craft. For one I think encouraging new voices is preferable to cosseting older ones and it appears that I’m not alone. Good to know.

I think we stand at the crossroads now in terms of how we define the entertainment and arts that we want to experience. With more choice comes more noise, making the curated mass market a simpler place to navigate. But if we want more than demographically decided content then we need to work a bit harder to find it. Thankfully there are many voices that will help us along the way, most of which are trustworthy….

How has social media affected you? Let me know in the comments below.

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