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?
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.