Me, EU and the IMF social media storm

22 Nov 2010

In his look back on the past week, Siliconrepublic editor John Kennedy concedes that from a social-media perspective, everything pales this week in comparison to the Irish financial bailout. Even the Beatles arriving on iTunes failed to move him.

You know there’s a joke doing the rounds on Twitter this morning. It goes: “Breaking News: Steve Jobs is to buy Ireland to solve the debt problem. It will be rebranded iLand.”

Well, I suppose it’s better than the Iceland joke that did the rounds when the banking crisis began to unravel.

Social media is really becoming the bellwether for people’s feelings, jocular or angry or otherwise, on the matter and during the times that’s in it let’s look at how people are tracking and handling it.

It’s a pity not enough Irish politicians have embraced social media because if they really wanted to understand people’s mindsets around this time, Twitter and Facebook sum it up pretty well.

On Twitter, hashtags such as #bailout and #imf give a fairly good picture but it’s usually during Prime Time (#rtept) that tempers really hot up. Seriously, it’s worth watching and contributing if you have something to say.

On Facebook, the sudden omission of Vincent Browne’s questions on RTE last night apparently for technical reasons has led to the launch of a campaign against alleged censorship while another Facebook campaign calling for a general election has 10,000 fans and intends to reach 50,000.

While the drama of the EU/IMF bailout will no doubt unfold in newspapers and on our airwaves, it would be wise to start paying attention to what people are saying and thinking on forums like Twitter and Facebook; it is visceral and raw and the people commenting aren’t just technology people, they increasingly consist of well-known broadcasters, legal professionals and frankly, a broadening walk of life.

So, where were you?

Personally, I envy people who can spend long lengths of time on either Twitter or Facebook, I’m usually drawn between using it as a work tool for research and sharing stories.

But keeping an eye on these forums in the midst of unprecedented historical events is also an opportunity to put a personal stamp on them, too.

Facebook has in excess of 500 million users and Twitter has 160 million and counting. Who knows what social media platforms (will we even call them such) will dominate in the years to come as internet comes to TV and mobile devices take on the attributes of supercomputers. Some 1.3 million Irish people are on Facebook and it emerged this morning that one-fifth of Irish people carry a smartphone. The opportunities to speak are accelerating in pace.

Watermark for our times

But, as many of us who have felt the powerful impact of being able to check through the records of things like the 1901 census and seeing where and how relatives lived, signed their names and earned their livings, who’s to say that the views and opinions of people at a particular point in history can’t be found decades from now.

People used to ask questions like, “Do you know what your grandparents were doing in 1916?” People used to say they would always remember where they were when JFK was shot or during the horrible events of 911.

For better or worse, tools like Facebook or Twitter could give a nice insight into what people were saying and thinking during pivotal events like the EU/IMF intervention in the Irish economy. This could leave a valuable resource for future generations, it could be a call to action, but whatever it is, it’s as mesmerising as it is magical.

I waited years for The Beatles to finally make it to iTunes, but frankly, I knew where my eyes were glued during a tumultuous week in Dublin in late November 2010.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years