For a few years social networks have appeared on Internet. They have been interpreted very quickly as a revolution in the way to communicate.
A whole real-virtual world
In fact, it is a process very different from the one of the blogs and forums for instance, because social networks, as their names tell it, manage real relationships in a virtual world. They not only throw info or topics at random through Internet or allow people to have a web conversation, but create an entire world of social real-virtual life which is always to manage by each of its users.
For the first time now, social life is available for everybody without leaving home, only by switching on a computer. Every user of Facebook can choose online friends and online social issues and decide which aspect of his profile he wants to show to the whole community and which aspect he prefers to show only to friends. The social networks have been interconnecting people from different corners of the world. Social life has no more time, limits, and barriers. It is available right now, only by clicking and sharing on the web.
A new content diffuser
To a certain extent, it is the same with information in the context of social networks. What is shared on Facebook or Twitter is always information, which can be private, personal or more global such as the news.
But social networks are not really a new media or a new way to inform. They are only a new vector of information that improves a lot the speed and the intensity of the impact of the news on Internet. In other words, we couldn’t talk about content provider, but more about content diffuser. The information often quickly found on Internet by some users is transmitted to others in a few minutes, maybe even in a few seconds. With what consequences?
The problem of quality
Even if the speed of the information delivering process is improved, we cannot say it is the same with quality. Social platforms such as Facebook enable neither a reflexive and clever selection of the contents nor a creative treatment of the information before its diffusion.
In the opposite, the quality of the topics available on Facebook is often poorer than in the traditional Medias because the gate-keeping and agenda-setting work of journalists is totally absent there. For example, information is often confused on social networks with marketing or branding, and more chosen for its joking characteristics than for its seriousness.
Thus the typical new media consumer merged from social networks tends to be a non-media consumer or a rumor consumer. By allowing a very global diffusion of news in a very few time, Facebook seems to be only aggravating the lack of care and caution in the way to be informed on Internet. That’s definitely part of the whole actual debate about the quality of contents on Internet and the future of journalism.