The impact of citizen journalism on media reliability has certainly increased since 2002, the year I was born. During this time, mobile phones were in no way something that were first choice for photography or videography purposes. Back then, you could buy a brick-style cell that could do no more than call, text or save contacts. Snake may have be preinstalled if you were lucky. If you were really, really lucky, your mobile may have included one back camera with quality as sharp as a WWII film. As there were no touch screens like we have today, people found it frustrating and tedious trying to jump from one application – of few- to another using a keypad. By the time anyone could manage to even open their camera, the event would have already passed. Today, I don’t even have to unlock my phone to have access to a high resolution camera in seconds.
In 2002, social media was practically unheard of. Talk of sites such as Bing began to circulate, but…Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? These are some of the biggest streaming sites for citizen journalism today, but didn’t come to light for several years down the line. This meant that if journalistic pieces were released into the media, it tended to be done through newspapers or tabloids. People who work for these are professionally trained or supervised, so there was a higher reliability in the content they produced, as opposed to today. We as a society absorb social media posts like sponges, and tend to forget that anyone has the power to spread misinformation.
As the internet was not as big of a part of our lives as it is today, many people did not allow it to consume them. In 2002, only 9.1% of the words population were internet users. This figure has shot up eighteen years later to 59%, meaning that 4.57 billion people have the ability to post whatever they see fit. (Kind of terrifying when you think about it.) It is important to remember that if you are engaging in citizen journalism, 4.57 billion people could be reading your work, so factual information is key.
Celebrities have been around for decades, but people who’s lives are dedicated to “social media influencing” have only recently became a vocation. These people are huge voices when it comes to citizen journalism – whatever they post, people eat it up. They can make a post about telling people if they buy a certain brand of tea, they’ll resemble a Victoria Secret model in 28 days. Without a doubt, the brand will be out of stock in 24 hours. People will do no further research into this fact of the “miracle” tea aiding in extreme weight loss, other than one person telling them so. Yes, similar occurrences would have happened back in the day, but with nowhere near the power that social media influencers have due to their usually large followings.
Finally, people’s mindsets have changed since the year I was born in many different aspects. As a generation, we value each other’s words, and are not as quick to judge what other people think as perhaps previous generations would have. Thus, we are more open minded towards letting people express their opinions online, but this becomes a problem when one person’s opinion offends another person’s existence.