That’s what five French journalists have been living on for the last five days as they were holed up in a farm house in the south of France. The journalists were taking part in an exercise in conjunction with Radio Canada to see how informed people could be—or perhaps how informed many people are—if they were to only read posts on Facebook and Twitter. The results demonstrated the good and the bad of both social media platforms.
The journalists were cut off from all media including television, radio, smart phones and print media. Though they were allowed to follow links posted on the social media sites, the journalist from Radio Canada, Janic Tremblay, hoped to take the experiment one step further: he did not follow any links and was therefore informed about the world for five days through headlines, commentary, and gossip.
The experiment took place as Facebook has been making efforts to route news stories through its own platform. In late January, Facebook released instructions explaining how to set up a news feed on users’ profile pages. According to Hitwise, Facebook already sends more users on to news sites from its links than Google News.
One clear benefit the French journalists could see to getting news via social media was instant access to information possibly inaccessible to older media. Tremblay, in an interview with the BBC, said he was able to essentially interview someone via Twitter who was making posts after having been falsely accused, wrongly arrested, and refused his rights by the police.
On the downside is the fact that Twitter comments are extremely difficult to verify. As the result of an “explosion” reported in the city of Lille, France, a Facebook page was set up which over 5,000 people promptly joined. The next day, after a proper investigation had been conducted, it was established that the “explosion” was a plane overhead that had broken the sound barrier.