Quick Updates on the NASA Diwali Image Phenomenon : Socially Constructed Thruths and the Persistence of Popularity

October 26th ( 2:40 Pm Chicago Time Less than 48 hrs on) ;66, 248 Shares  ( three times over 22,000 before)

October 25th ( 14 hrs on)

Remember in my original post I had speculated that as India would wake up , we would see an exponential rate of increase in the alternate truth. Yes the 1000 odd shares on that thread have grown to 23,000 ( in 12 -13 hrs) in that thread ( potential audience of 7-8 million just from this source).

Interestingly, there were many counter-voices in some of the threads that circulated who argued with similar logic as to why the image was not one of Diwali.Some of these even pointed out to the original website of the image confirming that it wasn’t a Diwali image.  Yet the Euphoria continues to persist.

To me it reflects that on Social Media, once certain facts get socially constructed, it is very hard to let alternate facts percolate. In other words, their popularity will continue to persist, even though they have been proven wrong! There seems little room for course correction.

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Social Media and The Problem with ‘Socially Constructed Truths’ : Why all Believed that the NASA Picture Was Clicked on Diwali

India and her diaspora worldwide was excited about Divali, (the festival of lights), and for good reason. A day before Divali,  October 25 2011 3:30 pm CT, I noticed that a map had become a ‘Facebook hit’. In less than 5 hrs,  the link had first appeared it had already been shared by 1000 odd people ( giving it a potential audience of at least 200,000). Remember I am reporting figures for only 1 thread that I could trace.

An idea took form that the picture was an illumination of the country on Diwali night. Of course most people related the distinct, yellow, green and red dots to the colors of fireworks.  When it popped on my wall ( as the 950th share) I immediately questioned that Colombo(Sri Lanka), Lahore (Pakistan) and Delhi could not be celebrating divali with the same ‘illumination’. (Some even speculated these were the remnants of Hindu legacies in these cities!) Also why would people in certain areas burst green colored fireworks when the rest of the country was bursting yellow.

Leave that, it was easy to explain the map if one understood some   development parameters and grade school geography of the region ( Electrical Connectivity and Population Density, Location of the cities, Mountains).

So I decided to question how could the illumination be different from any other night (when the Power grid hadn’t failed)? I commented with my reservations on the wall of the friend who had shared this with me. Seeing some merit in my reservations, he digged the original source of the picture and indeed found it had nothing to do with Divali. He found the original source on FB itself, when someone else like me ( a friend of a friend of his) had commented on their common friend’s share of this post with similar concerns and found this link.

But our counter-currents are far and few between. That they are the complete truth does not matter . As I write, the Indian diaspora on Facebook believes that the map is indeed a NASA picture clicked on a Divali evening. I am sure in a few hours when Indians wake up this ‘socially constructed truth’ will spread further and more widely. ( See my update tracking the numbers)

To me this is the grim reality of online social media!

Happy Divali Regardless

Ignorance ‘can’ be bliss!

Newer connotations of terms

Here’s a recent incident of how my being ignorant of a very popular new technology product led me to experience something very interesting.

Brief Digression: I have to admit to the cliched title to the post, but sometimes cliches are the most powerful way of summing up a thought. Perhaps that’s how lines like the one I used here, become cliches in the first place.

Coming Back The world around me (well, my facebook connections’ wall, the tweets i follow etc, if it qualifies the term ‘world’) has been recently talking about a term snow leopard. Since this came from a few friends in the US who reside in areas where it snows, and are nature lovers, I assumed they were indeed talking about having spotted snow leopards, yes an admirable (now rare) creature of the cat family. I myself had the good fortune of seeing snow leopards in Ladakh way back in year 1995.
Snow Leopards As I always knew
The snow leopard I always knew

But soon realization dawned on me, that they were indeed talking about some new technology product as talks about launch date, free upgrades, patches and many other similar terms gained momentum. A poor cat couldn’t be launched or upgraded with patches unless some serious genetic experiments were underway!

Confused, I decided to remove my doubts by using Wikipedia, as I thought it to be contemporary and more accustomed to the jargon that ‘the world’ around me uses. And here’s how the article on Wikipedia for ‘Snow Leopard’ begins:

Snow Leopard From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the cat. For Apple’s operating system, see Mac OS X v10.6. For the book by Peter Matthiessen, see The Snow Leopard.

Are you then compelled to learn about Snow Leopard, here or else remain blissfully ignorant? I chose the latter!