It’s not unnatural for us to question the deaths of famous figures (after all, how exactly does Tupac still release all that new music?). Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s capture and gruesome death last week in his hometown of Sirte, Libya ignited a flurry of responses on social media sites. While much of Libya erupted with excitement in their newfound liberation after 42 years of tyrannical rule and months of civil war, the rest of the world seemed to ponder the accuracy or truthfulness of the story. Here are a few responses from 9 News’ Facebook page from users of the site:
“for real or just another stunt…”
“sounds like another BS story like the killing of Bin Laden … really … did ANYONE believe that BS!!!”
“Wow if this is accurate, its amazing news!!! :)"
There is vindication in learning of a dictator’s demise, yet stories of their death are often met with instant criticism from reluctant believers. Social media encourages the diversification of opinion and published material; it is no longer just our traditional news media outlets delivering us the top stories. The use of horrific photographs taken of dead bodies or reports of DNA tests (which were used to prove the death of Osama Bin Laden) in news stories were once considered taboo. We have a hard time believing that these infamous, illusive figures are really dead. To a degree, social media has created a culture of disbelief in traditional news media.
For the following reasons, we are becoming increasingly cynical of news we read from our mobile devices:
1. Everyone’s a publisher: With millions of blogs, Twitter users and Facebook posts, everyone can post their own opinions online and claim them to be “facts”.
2. Photo tampering/Photoshop, baby! : A published photo is no longer a reliable means of communicating the truth if they can be altered so easily. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could make myself look like a Kardashian.
Thousands of pictures taken of Gaddafi’s dead body circulated via Twitter and Facebook were not enough to change the status of his death from “unconfirmed” to “confirmed”. The confirmation of his ghastly execution came from recorded videos taken from cellphones belonging to celebrating rebels and citizens in the streets of Sirte. While much as been said about the disturbing abuse of his body after his execution, it was the videos of his lifeless body posted and shared throughout the social media spectrum that confirmed his death for the rest of the world. With the popularity of social media usage around the world, “seeing is believing” is still the norm. However, the standard of how much we need to see in order to believe is being raised because of the increased discussion of breaking news through social media.
How trustworthy are you of the news you receive from your social media newsfeed? Is the exchange of news stories through social media still meaningful if we doubt its credibility?