With the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett Thursday, it was not difficult to notice that Twitter and Facebook are now the places where people gather when wanting to reminisce or reach out.
"Stepped off a 10-hour flight to discover Twitter is essentially a wake for recently departed Michael Jackson," Twitter co-founder Biz Stone tweeted Thursday evening.
Twitter and Facebook have become this generation's Thriller. They're the places to be for anyone looking to gather or talk about what's happening, or what just happened. Years ago, folks would gather around the radio, then the TV. Now it's the Internet. Specifically, in 2009, it's Facebook and Twitter.
People flocked to their social network sites to remember Jackson and Fawcett. Computers and mobile phones have replaced cable TV, which supplanted network TV, which displaced radio. It's part of a natural media evolution that was never more apparent than when Jackson died.
I was walking up Broadway in New York City with my wife Thursday afternoon, and I happened to be on the phone with my sister. She'd heard on TV that Michael Jackson might be dead, which was odd to hear after Fawcett had just died. Often false rumors of other celebrity deaths will pop up when someone prominent dies. My sister was flipping around CNN, Fox News and other cable news channels to see if she could confirm the facts. We hung up the phone not knowing more than what she initially heard.
Immediately, I flicked on my iPhone and fired up the TwitterFon app to see what people were saying about Jackson. Checking Twitter is great for finding headlines, especially breaking news. People were talking about Jackson on Twitter, but none of the 500 folks I follow on Twitter seemed to know if he had died. As I was doing this, a guy darted out of a deli telling a friend that Jackson had died.
Moments later, my sister called back to say CNN was reporting that Jackson was rushed to the hospital, but nothing more. "Check TMZ.com," I said, "If anyone will have huge celebrity news, they will." And they did. Possibly too early, according to my DailyFinance colleague Jeff Bercovici. Check drudgreport.com, I said. It also had a headline saying Jackson was dead. She clicked on Drudge's headline ... which took her back to the TMZ.com story.
And there you have it. When our kids grow up, they won't turn on the tube to see big news as it happens, the way we do now. They'll go to the Web -- in some way, shape or form -- to find the news. And then, as many did yesterday, they'll stay on the Web to talk about why it matters and how they feel.
Don't misunderstand one thing here, it's not that video truly killed the radio star (as the British group the Buggles accurately predicted in 1979). Radio is still here; many even get their news from it. TV is here too, both in network and cable forms. None of them are going away, per se, but they aren't going to be the first place you'll go to get news confirmed, as cable had been for years. Don't shed a tear for CNN, by the way -- it killed CBS Evening News years ago.
"We have to look at whether or not mainstream media is covering the world fast enough, and the answer is no," NBC's Ann Curry said at a Twitter conference last week in New York.
Yet none of these media has replaced the old reliable telephone. It's still arguably the best way to get breaking news that matters most in your life. In the coming years, though, maybe girls will go on Twitter or Facebook to tell their moms that they're pregnant. Moms will be flabbergasted, while daughters won't understand the reaction. After all, it's how they get their news -- so why not deliver it that way?
Yesterday, officially or not, the baton was passed from cable TV to the Web. Technology marches forward. If you don't like it, or get used to it soon, it just means you're getting old.
Anthony Massucci is a senior writer for DailyFinance. He likes getting his news on the Web, so, therefore, is not getting old. You may follow him on Twitter at hianthony.
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