During the early days, Twitter–editor André Natta’s favorite social media app–was used heavily for networking and making connections. “I remember what Twitter was like back then. Twitter is responsible for me making trips to Memphis and out to the West Coast,” said Natta. “I didn’t know anybody, supposedly, but I had places to stay, people to connect and engage with and opportunities opened up because of it.” Now, Natta states that spaces like Twitter have become nothing more than a petri dish full of toxicity.
In fact, in the United States, one survey of more than 1,000 social media users named Twitter as the most toxic social media app, and according to a Pew Research Center report, 67% of journalists believe that social media overall is largely detrimental to the profession, but they know they need it for their work.
Natt agrees that social media is still essential for journalists. “Use common sense to go ahead and sus out what makes sense versus what doesn’t,” said Natta. “There’s a lot of times where the mob at least gets most of it right, or at least gets you in that general direction that where you should be going.”
However, Natta says there are two big problems with using social media for as a primary information source: Forgetting that not everyone is on social media to voice their thoughts and the fast-paced news cycle. “It’s a great way to kind of take a temperature but to rely on it solely to drive a news cycle still seems scary.”
Natta also emphasizes the importance of being able to have a place in the virtual and physical worlds and effectively navigating the space between them.
“If a community makes it easy to use the virtual place as an extension of the physical place it will never be a replacement, despite what everybody is talking about. We need to not paint with very broad strokes.”
Journalists must also restrain themselves when faced with negativity directed against them in social media, according to Natta. “It’s really easy to want to go off all the time and I don’t fault people for wanting to go off all the time, but you have to be willing to go ahead and take that breath,” said Natta. “Take that moment to ask, is this going to work me up more or is it really going to fix the situation?”
Natta says social media remains a vast and convoluted place for journalists.
“It has been a bumpy ride for social media and I think that it has always had the opportunity to be a resource for folks,” said Natta. “To make it easier for folks to go ahead and sort fact versus fiction.”