Lies, Damn Lies and Social Media

A single tweet sparks an inferno. (More like Mrs. O'Leary's cow).

AKA, the tweet heard ’round the world.

I generally don’t blog about work-related crises (especially when it’s sports-related), but this weekend’s social media mayhem deserves an exception.

I have witnessed how fast real news and fake news can spread via social media, especially twitter. What makes us hit the RT or the share button so quickly? I’ll leave that to behavioral experts. Even as my fingers are itching to spread information as fast as I can (and, oh, to be the first is so thrilling), I take the extra time to confirm what I’m sharing. I want my followers and friends to trust my updates.

As everyone knows, Texas Tech and Texas A&M are huge rivals, so I was definitely prepared for a social media smackdown Saturday and Sunday (especially if we lost). What I wasn’t prepared for came in via Facebook about 2:40 pm Saturday. “Shame shame tech fans! Disgusting what was done to A&M busses!”

Wait, what?

By Sunday morning, Twitter, Facebook, bloggers and mainstream media from USA Today to ESPN had LITERALLY picked up the ball and run with it. The ball? A tweet from A&M AD Bill Byrne.

Our own community was ripping us apart, condemning our students for everything from spray painting the buses to physically depositing bowl movements on the bus floors. With no proof, no police report, no investigation, no … FACTS. Just a single tweet.

I was very proud of the statement issued late yesterday (10/10) by Texas Tech AFTER an investigation had been conducted:

Many of you are aware of a tweet from a Texas A&M official that their team buses were spray painted and animal feces were spread inside of the buses early Saturday morning. The clear implication of the tweet was that this was the responsibility of Texas Tech fans or students. Texas Tech has conducted an investigation regarding this allegation, and has discovered the following:

  • The buses were not spray painted. Instead, washable shoe polish was used on the windows of one of the buses.
  • No feces were found either in or on the buses. Fish bait was dropped onto the floor of one of the buses.
  • The alleged “vandalism” was cleaned by the bus drivers and Holiday Inn staff before it was seen by the A&M official who tweeted the information.

While incidents such as the ones alleged are inappropriate and strongly condemned by Texas Tech, it is no less wrong to condemn the entirety of our university, students and supporters by posting inaccurate information on the internet for the purpose of sensationalizing the actions of one or a very few. We are disturbed by the careless use of social media to share these inaccuracies.

Indeed.

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