Some days I feel like the Internet is a continual re-run of the movie Groundhog Day.
While the news changes daily, the basic communication cycle we humans engage in about the news plays out the same way over and over again (sometimes with the same people playing the same role each time.)
Does this sound familiar?
* Something happens and someone posts about it online.
* People in your network, who never read or fact check anything they post online, post about the incident. You ignore their post.
* A few smart people in your network, who DO read and fact check things, post about the incident. You read their post and maybe share it.
* A small group of people start having a dialogue about the incident that seemingly no one else cares about.
* The news media learns about the incident and adds an inflammatory spin to the news and starts posting about it.
* People become instantly outraged about the incident and share the inflammatory news like wildfire. The early sharers look around like, “How come no one cared [yesterday/this morning] when I was talking about this?”
* People start hunting online for any information they can get about the incident. They watch accompanying videos, read early tweets or similar news articles that pretty much say the same thing they’ve already read but maybe with a new quote in it.
* Buzzfeed posts a "What we know so far" summary of the incident which is updated in real time.
* People try to establish some sort of personal connection to the incident to justify their outrange/passion/etc. (e.g. “I know the woman whose cousin was married to the guy on that plane…” “I too have struggled with mental illness…”, “As a white man in America, I just want to say…” or “As a long time animal lover…”)
* A contrarian in your network, says, “Good. I’m glad that [incident] happened” just so everyone will fight with him (or her… oh, let’s be honest, it’s nearly always a him.)
* People start to distill the incident down to an issue of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, culture etc. Debate ensues.
* People track down the actual humans involved in the incident and begin personally attacking them.
* Some of the personal attacks are funny and feel justified. Those get shared. Everyone laughs. Mashable posts a “10 best tweets about [incident]" compilation.
* Some of the attacks quickly escalate to threats of violence. People post the Ron Burgundy "Well that escalated quickly" meme. Commentators comment on man's inhumanity to man and shake their heads at the sad state of the Internet.
* A celebrity posts about the incident. Everyone shares the post mostly just because the celebrity looks amazing.
* After a ton of coverage, someone says, “Why is everyone so mad about this incident when they aren’t mad about [equally valid thing?]" No one has a really good answer.
* People begin to build and share social objects around the incident. They change their profile/cover photo, make “I support” or “I stand with” avatars, etc.
* Someone in your Facebook feed says something truly profound about the incident which totally changes your thinking about it and the world in general. In response, you just hit the "like" button.
* Someone says of the whole affair, “Thanks Obama."
* Thorough analysis is done on the incident and written up into hundreds of articles and blog posts. People share and discuss them.
* Someone does research on the historical precedent for the incident or how often it happens in other countries and makes a helpful infographic. The inforgraphic gets shared by a small group of people. The stats from the infographic get used by the news media and go viral. The person who did the legwork to generate the stats never gets famous.
*The personal attacks against the people involved in the incident become more dangerous, so much so that those people and their families are forced to cut all ties to the Internet and go into hiding. Some people applaud. Most feel kind of sad about it and secretly hope they never do anything stupid which goes viral.
* A social media expert writes a “5 lessons marketers can learn from [incident]” blog post. Everyone laughs at him or her but then shares the posts anyway because they’re automating all of their content curation.
* The news media releases something new about the incident with an even greater inflammatory spin. But everyone recognizes that nothing new has happened, and that the news is simply just using more dramatic graphics and headlines in an attempt to keep the story hot. Everyone bemoans “the sad state of news today.”
* People start to post “enough with the posts about [incident]" online.
* Someone creates a meme using images or words from the incident. This creates a second wave of social sharing.
* Someone who is hardly ever online hears about the incident for the first time and posts their very first “I can’t believe this happened!" update. Everyone in their network shakes their head and either finds this person adorable or annoying.
* People slowly stop sharing new updates about the incident.
* Something new happens and someone posts it online.
*People in your network who never read or fact check anything they post online, post about the incident. You ignore their post.
*A few smart people in your network who DO read and fact check things post about the incident. You read their post and maybe share it.
And so on...
In other words, the news is always changing. Our behavior toward the news? Not so much.
Did I miss anything here?
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The Social Cyborg blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at www.kaneconsulting.biz.
I’m a consultant, strategist, author, educator & speaker with more than 20 years of experience in marketing and communications. I’m passionately curious, fairly sassy, kinda dorky and seriously good at what I do.