Twitter often gets the credit for being the modern-day digital medium that captures disasters, protests as they unfold – 140 characters at a time.

The micro-blogging service that was designed to be simple enough to use via SMS message has been the focus of much media attention over the last couple of years as journalists grapple with the changes social media has made to the way we codify dramatic world events. It’s fascinating to see how easy-to-use digital tools have been embraced by citizens around the globe and become an effective tool for documenting highly important events from the grassroots level. Never before has so much information been available in such a timely fashion, from so many sources, so quickly after the event.

Brian Jackson, journalist
Brian Jackson

There’s no denying social media’s user-friendly multimedia content generation makes it a powerful tool to publish information about disasters such as Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami, or Egypt’s peaceful revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. But is anyone really paying attention?

Not that many Canadians are, according to a recent poll conducted for ITBusiness.ca by Delvinia Data Collection. When asked how they were staying informed about ongoing protests in the Middle East, 60 per cent of Canadians say they used only traditional media (such as radio and TV) to follow the events. One quarter of Canadians used both social media and traditional, and just two per cent used exclusively social media. About one in 10 Canadians said they “don’t follow the events at all.”

This AskingCanadians poll of 1064 respondents was conducted for ITBusiness.ca.  The data was collected from March 25th to March 28th. AskingCanadians is an online survey community with a panel of more than160,000 members across Canada.

It seems that media invented in the 20th century is still the most popular method for tracking how events unfold in the 21st century. For those that do, you might assume Twitter is the preferred social network to glean information about protests. After all, the medium was built to deliver real-time updates to a mass audience.

Twitter started getting a lot of attention for its usage as a tool of protest in 2009 during Iran’s protests to the reelection of President Mahmoud Amhadinejad. The revolution is now often called “The Twitter Revolution.” But, according to Canadian opinion, it looks like that may be a misnomer.

For those that do use social media to follow the Arab Spring, Facebook was by far the most popular, with 68.7 per cent of Canadians saying they used it specifically to follow the protests. The next most popular was YouTube, being listed by 46.9 per cent, and Twitter came in third at 27.9 per cent, followed closely by blogs at 22.8 per cent.

Facebook did get some credit for being a medium of dissent in the recent Egyptian revolution. One Egyptian man even named his newborn daughter “Facebook” to recognize the social networking site’s role in organizing youth protests. This stuff can only happen in the 21st century.

Joining the AskingCanadians panel is free to Canadians who are in the age of majority in the provinces they reside, or have the permission of their parents or legal guardian. Qu’en pensez-vous is the sister community in Quebec.  AskingCanadians is owned and operated by Delvinia Data Collection for more information go to http://www.delvinia.com/askingcanadians.

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