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How much news do you seek out each week, if any at all? Or does your knowledge of politics solely extend from the shared articles from friends and trending topics found on your News Feeds, Dashboards, or Twitter Feeds?

Social networking sites have had many purposes over the years, changing in order to adapt to the needs and desires of the present consumer. It seems that today, many social media platforms offer pages where users can find every bit of news related to anything and everything occurring in the world. It is common knowledge that the speed at which news travels is far more rapid and instantaneous than when our parents were in their late teens. This is almost entirely thanks to the way the Internet, specifically social media, has influenced the ways we communicate with the global community.

Social media platforms from Snapchat to Facebook to Twitter are incorporating news gathering and sharing services into their standard interfaces. The all-important question, is this: What are the consequences of receiving all or most of ones news from a single or small group of sources where the communities the user is a part of have little variation due to the link between real and virtual lives?

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Apps and social networking sites seem to hold the majority of news for millennials

A study from Pew Research Center from last year found that 61% of millennials (ages 18-33) receive political news from Facebook every week. A separate study conducted by the Media Insight Project found that 69% of millennials receive some form of news at least once a day, but only 40% follow a paid news-subscription service. So young adults are certainly exposed to news each week, but there seems to be little data about whether or not these users make any further inquiries into the topics that pop up on their social media accounts.

Taking time to fact check, read opposing viewpoints or consult varying sources is imperative, especially in a day in which nearly the entire world seems to have access to the internet. There are sources we are told to avoid when testing the legitimacy of events, such as Wikipedia, but what about personal blogs or a trending hashtag. The first step to take in evaluating the validity of any event, article, or post is to determine if the source itself is trustworthy. If we let information appear on our social media sites and fail to read up on the topic, we allow that information to live as the truth. Failing to question the trustworthiness of a source or another user is dangerous. The cliché of everything on the Internet is the truth must continue to be fought against in order to fully engage with the world around us.

My parents talk about politics and current events fairly often, which made me realize the importance of national and global awareness. So I follow a few politicians and news organizations on Twitter and I like the New York Times page on Facebook. Occasionally I’ll look further into trending hashtags and click on a few different links. More often than not, however, I end up looking at only a few sites for news. Some days I don’t look into any topic, I only receive news by way of shared articles and the headlines that accompany such links.

I urge you all to think of where your knowledge of current events comes from. You may be surprised by how much you rely on only a handful (or fewer) of sources.

 

Photo Credits: Featured Image courtesy of Flickr user Jason Howie &  In-Article courtesy of Flickr user Jon S

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2 thoughts on “Social Media as News Outlets

  1. I’ll admit I do get 99% of my news from social media. When I first wake up, throughout the day, and before I go to sleep, I check at least Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for not only catching up with friends but also for finding out the latest news. Snapchat is how I found out about the Paris bombings. Facebook is how I keep tabs on the presidential election. Instagram is how I learned of the death of David Bowie. The list goes on. When I was younger, I read the print version of the New York Times and watched the news each night with my parents while making dinner. But now that I have moved away from home – and especially now that I am in a foreign country – I rarely bother to even check the New York Times site; I simply follow their Facebook page and Twitter handles.

    The majority of the time, I trust a lot of the news I see on my social media. If a reputable news organization or an intelligent friend shares something, I am far less likely to question the content. I don’t always do my fact checking. However, I think it is pretty easy to distinguish a reputable site from a non-reputable one (most of the time). For example, while Buzzfeed is reputable for many things, their posts often include clear biases and even mistakes while they try to keep current events up to date, and so I will usually seek out a secondary site to confirm anything questionable. However, ‘reputable’ sites often feature underlying biases and mistakes as well, so in that case, I will often check maybe two or three sites before forming my own conclusions on things.

    I think this is a really important topic of discussion as more and more people get their news from social media. However, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Before, I got the majority of my news from what Brian Williams told me on TV each night. Now it comes from a plethora of sources, which is probably better in the long run.

  2. Making the news more accessible via social media has an abundance of benefits: it allows a younger generation to be more politically involved, or at least politically interested; to the underprivileged, it allows easy access to a bigger world through the click of a button; and it has the huge potential for social awareness and reform (like Kony2012 or #BlackLivesMatter).

    But you’re right, we have to be wary of our sources. Another potential problem with social media news sources is getting our information in such condensed form, like a few paragraphs on Snapchat or mostly visual content on Buzzfeed. A 10 second video or a catchy headline on Twitter cannot contain the whole story, and I have to remind myself not to be satisfied with that (which my attention span often disagrees).

    Not “being satisfied” with the quick story then takes us to more reputable sources like the New York Times (where you can only access a certain number of articles a month before you have to subscribe – exclusion of information? or fairly making profit? perhaps), or your news source of choice. And yet, we have to be wary of those too. Like you said, every news source has a subtle bias or hidden agenda. So I conclude that the problem isn’t accessing the news on social media; it’s news itself. I think social media news sources have more advantages than disadvantages, and though it may seem pessimistic, taking most information with a grain of salt and a suspicious eye saves you from being a victim of misinformation when browsing through your morning news.

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