Social Media Taken Hostage By Michael JacksonSocial Media Taken Hostage By Michael Jackson

During my usual morning routine of checking email, surfing the Internet for social media updates and news, I learned the true power of a social media "buzz". While browsing that morning, I came across a headline, "MJ King of Pop pronounced dead." It appeared to be a random low grade spammy headline, but I do admit it made me curious enough to click. I thought it was just the typical paparazzi crying wolf scenario, but when I started checking out the website I realized it was legitimate news! As the shocking news of Michael Jackson's death spread like wildfire it caused many people to panic and created a need to find out more. Within an hour after the news of his death broke out, CNN had 20 million visitors on their website. There wasn't much for CNN to report since nothing was being confirmed by anyone. So people were left to deal with just one fact: The King of Pop was dead.

Google was struggling to provide access to the millions of people logging on to find out what had exactly happened to Michael Jackson. Google had so many users searching for Michael Jackson in one hour that it was under the impression they were being targeted by an automated attack mechanism. It was an unbelievable story which triggered people to search for information about how this actually happened. The fact that Michael Jackson lived an extremely mysterious and private life didn't help either. Google had users flooding their page to search for news and information about him.

Twitter had a milestone "fail whale" occur due to the number of twitterers logging on and expressing their views on Michael Jackson's death. A "fail whale" is the image of a whale being carried in a net by a flock of birds. This image is displayed on the Twitter website when they are experiencing server overload issues. Many were upset by the fact that Michael Jackson's death took priority on tweets over the current political upsurge in Iran. I think Raoul Orozco's rendition of the fail whale would have been a more appropriate image for Twitter to display!

A mere 24 hours after his death, 500 edits were made to Michael Jackson's Wikipedia page by various users across the globe. Yahoo! News had 4 million visitors in a matter of an hour. AOL Instant Messenger also experienced technical difficulties due to an overload of Internet traffic. People craving the need to share and keep tabs on the death of this Pop icon through the Internet, paved the way for a new Social Media milestone. Users shared updates, opinions, reactions, tribute videos, and so much more within just a matter of hours.

This social media frenzy took a turn for the worse only when rumors and web hoaxes started popping up. Some took advantage of the shocked and vulnerable state of Michael Jackson fans by feeding them false rumors. One user claimed Michael was strangled by his older brother with a microphone cord. Other users targeted celebrities such as Harrison Ford, George Clooney, and Jeff Goldblum claiming that they had all died in freak accidents. Apparently these web hoaxes were fueled by websites that allowed you to insert names and spin fake automatic stories ready to be published. (What a cynical twist to article spinning huh?) The numerous celebrity death stories floating on the Internet further triggered the social media frenzy to find out what was true and what wasn't. In short, Facebook, Twitter, Google and all the other Social Media sites had a field day.
by Angira Pandit
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