by ARIEL HARSINAY
You’ve heard it before: printed newspapers are a dying species. However, it seems that getting news from our televisions is beginning to die out as well. In this new age of media, we are getting our news from other sources. Social media is frequently a medium through which many people get their news coverage. Some may argue that this is a positive transition. Others, however, may see it as the death of traditional news methods and a shift to a generation that is ignorant to international affairs.
Facebook is the most common social media news site for U.S. adults (over 64%) (Anderson & Caumont, 2014). News is becoming more and more accessible as we carry our phones with us wherever we go and check social media regularly. Some may argue that social media is the most innovative form of news. It has the potential to eliminate the bias associated with conventional news coverage. Through social media, you are provided every side of the story. It is up to the public to make sure that the facts that would otherwise be hidden from us are now exposed. Due to social media, news is more interactive than ever. Everybody has the opportunity to give their opinion. Social media can facilitate discussion on events in a way that was never possible before. While before you only had the opportunity to debate and discuss world events with people who were local to you, now you can discuss them with people who actually live in the affected countries. For example, in the six months following the Egyptian Revolution, Egyptian Twitter users increased by 2.5 million. This increased Twitter participation was also mimicked during the revolution in Syria (MN, 2016). This displays how those in the countries that are actually affected now have a voice and everyone around the world can hear what they have to share.
Another benefit of our new way of delivering news is that people’s voices who were often silenced in the past can now be heard. We all have cell phones and are able to record everything going on around us. We can immediately post these videos to Facebook and therefore reveal the truth about crimes and injustices occurring to ensure that victims are never silenced. An example of this is the Brock Turner case. Due to social media, the public made it so that a man who would have otherwise gotten away after his crime with an untarnished reputation was faced with national outrage. His unbelievably short prison sentence created a discussion about the flaws and biases in our justice system. It was up to us to decide whether or not this story deserved to be heard.
On the other hand, some may believe that getting our news from social media is just setting us up for distraction. Let’s face it; you’re not heading to Buzzfeed to read some in depth coverage about the devastating effects of the earthquake in Italy or UN relations in South Sudan. No, you’re there to read “25 Times Kim Kardashian Was Almost Too Kim Kardashian” or a quiz to find out “Which “Friends” Character is Your Soulmate Based on Your Starbuck’s Order” (yes, those are real headlines). And while I understand that everyone seeks entertainment in their lives in one variation or another, Buzzfeed credits itself as a credible news site.
It’s understandable that after a long day of school or work it’s easier to come home and ignore what’s going on in the rest of the world and stick to entertaining Facebook posts. Ignorance truly is bliss, and I myself am a hypocrite to this notion. However, this is leading to the cumulative choice to be ignorant to the world around us. Back in the day when newspapers were the go-to form of news coverage, you couldn’t be easily distracted by flashy headlines about celebrities or personality quizzes. Nowadays, we are presented with so much information that we just don’t know what to do with it all. Oftentimes, we opt to stick to the light fluff pieces. And through this, we are choosing, consciously or not, to remain ignorant to what’s truly happening in the world.
And yes, everybody has the opportunity to give their opinion- but what happens when the rhetoric they are spewing is blatantly false? Anybody can write whatever story they want on Facebook and now all of their Facebook friends will read it and likely assume it is true. The notion of “if you read it on the internet, it’s probably fake” that I commonly heard in the early 2000’s is never uttered anymore. Any news story, whether or not it is from a credible source, has the opportunity to go viral. And online, bad news travels fast. Because of social media, we are also able to pick and choose what we consume. All of the headlines are not right in your face. You can quickly scroll past the headlines on your Facebook feed that do not interest you. And while social media may give you the opportunity to hear perspectives from other people around the world who think differently than you, you can also choose to be further enclosed in your bubble. Your Facebook news feed can learn what you like and only show articles that interest you. You can unfriend anyone who doesn’t share the same opinion as you. While social media may facilitate discussion, it may also make people afraid to speak their minds.
Whether we like it or not, social media is becoming a popular way for Americans to receive their news. The power is in our hands to decide which stories are exposed, how we decide to discuss these events with people around the world, and whether or not we will be taken over by the other elements of social media that often distract us from the truth.