Yesterday, twin teenagers Maryanne and Angela Vourlis celebrated their first day in the third decade of their lives, their 20th birthdays. As they awoke, they went to visit Facebook, hoping to see various messages from friends; instead, they discovered that their 17 year old brother, Bobby Vourlis, had been killed in a car accident.
In a tragic example of how fast social networks can spread news, the twin girls and their mother found out that the young teenager was killed, with nobody else notifying them first. Angela Vourlis said, "I didn't get it. All these people were writing, 'RIP Chris Naylor' and 'RIP Bobby', and I thought: 'What's going on?'" According to The Daily Telegraph, the mother of the three was forced to ring the nearby police station to ask about her son's death, before the news was made official to her; Bobby Vourlis had been killed in a car accident in the early hours of the morning, in which two other teenagers were killed (including the driver of the car, the aforementioned Chris Naylor) and another two suffered minor injuries.
Major news seems to be hitting social networks before any other media at an increasing rate in the past few months, with services like Twitter able to get news out within minutes. Whilst this has great benefits, it's also potentially damaging. Multiple times, news has spread through Twitter enough to make it to their Trending Topics list, hours before the major news sites such as CNN have even put up a basic post. This may be somewhat concerning to them, although Twitter is limited to 140 characters for each post, whereas news articles are obviously much more in depth – obviously these types of services cannot replace the big news corporations, but it certainly worries a few people at the time it takes for the latter to catch up. The same applies to Facebook, where updates are generally rather short, unless a link is attached, but even so, it isn't that much more detailed. Either way you look at it, the rate at which social media spreads information can be both a blessing and a curse.