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Panic on Tweet Street: “Without Twitter, I felt jittery and naked”

Friday, August 7, 2009
posted by Douglas Keene

twitter-failThursday, August 6, 2009 was a day that apparently will live in infamy for many habitual Twitter and Facebook users. Multiple social networking sites were attacked and crashed, leaving users without a way to update their circles on their activities. Some “users” panicked as much as you might have expected from drug addicts. Users were “jittery”, “naked”, “freaked out”.

Those of us not drawn obsessively to Twitter, Facebook or other social networking sites, find these reactions seem frankly bizarre. It isn’t like my favorite Starbucks café shut their doors without warning me!  But, obviously, those affected by the Twitter/Facebook fail were strongly affected. As Marc Cooper, a journalism professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication said in the CNN article:

“For many people, and not just young people, the Web is not just media, it’s actually a place where they conduct their lives or a portion of their lives.”

What we can learn from this reaction:

We need to remember where our jurors live their lives—some are not involved in on-line social networks and others are—to a very large degree.  Much like a recent post on the Cognitive Daily blog points out there are generational gaps that we often overlook.

Just as most younger jurors have no idea of the origin of the phrase “sour grapes”, many more ‘mature’ litigators don’t stop to think about how—or even if—on-line networking involvement affects how jurors hear their case.  For many, social networking is a friendship circle, and a source of information and impressions about everything—including case-relevant information.

Just as the barrage of media coverage on Twittering jurors hit in March (see our blog post on March 17th, 2009), the reaction to the failure of these on-line networks is a strong reminder  to pay attention to social networking involvement of our potential jurors. What values and attitudes are inherent in this merging of private and public lives? How might potential jurors have shared perspectives that give us information on how they will react to your case? We have to learn to pay attention to what is important to the public—not just what is important to us.

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