How Social Media Is Affecting The Way We View News
Hannah Williams is worried that the only news we’re absorbing is tailored to our interests, and thus not the partisan news we should be getting.
The photograph showed a pug dressed as Wonder Woman and yes, it was hilarious.
Scrolling through my news feed a few months ago, as I invariably do everyday, I came across that horrifying photograph of the three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, face down in the sand. This wasn’t my first encounter with the image, but nevertheless the impact was just the same. So I read over the Independent article that accompanied the photograph and ultimately was deeply saddened by the information. But then I quickly burst out in laughter. Just underneath on my Twitter feed, a post shared on LadBible caught my eye. The photograph showed a pug dressed as Wonder Woman and yes, it was hilarious. But the juxtaposition of these images actually made me feel very uncomfortable. One minute I was deeply horrified and the next giggling away at a dog in fancy dress, with no real time to absorb what I had just seen and read. This really made me question the context in which I was accessing my daily news and how receiving information primarily through social media is impacting our generation.
In this digital world, it is clear that young people tend to obtain most of their information via online resources, especially social media. According to the Telegraph, we spend 31 hours a week online. That’s more than a day a week
We are now our own editors, finding information and sharing news we care about and what matters to us, choosing what’s important, what angle to take and which opinions are right. The journalism of old, of balance, fact and analysis is fading, in favour of the comment piece.
We are now our own editors…
We can now access breaking news on demand and much more conveniently. Social media can often be the first to know of breaking news with users sharing photographs, video and comments before TV broadcasters even arrive at the scene. I know about the Charlie Hebdo attacks before the news did. The shared photo of Aylan Kurdi on social media made the news cover the refugee crisis more. Never before has the news been so interactive and enabled us to share our opinions more freely. How many news stories now are just collections of people tweeting their opinions about current affairs? Also, thanks to our phones, we can now catch up or keep up with current affairs on the go, from a range of sources, meaning different views and different perspectives.
The problem comes when we as young people are using social media as our only resource. The first Reuters Institute Digital Report has found that 43% of Britons aged between 16 and 24 are now much more likely to access news through social networks, such as Facebook.
Source: Digital News Report 2015, Sources of News
The influence of social media on young people was discussed in relation to the May General Election in a Guardian Article. Some argued that sites such as Twitter and Facebook ‘gave a voice’ to people who wouldn’t normally take part in political debates, thus breaking down barriers, having a huge influence on their vote. While others argued it made the election much more ‘superficial’ and ‘divisive’.
In this article it states that ‘Less than one in five Britons (19%) say they are more likely to trust political information gained from social media than from newspapers – 59% disagree. Those aged 18-24 are the most trusting of social media, with almost a third (32%) trusting the information they see on services like Twitter and Facebook’.
Source: Digital News Report 2015, Sources of News
What we need to be aware of is is the ‘right’ content being shared?
What we need to be aware of is is the ‘right’ content being shared? In other words is there enough educational content being spread across these preferred platforms and is this content always accurate or as accurate as other forms of media distribution?
One of the main issues is the credibility of some of these online sources. We’ve all been victims to a fake news story or to viral spam such as ‘Justin Bieber has died from a drug overdose’ Evidently, it is clear soon enough that the information is false and he is in fact still very much alive and singing. But the point is without doing further research we are victims to a great deal of false information on social media.
So, how can we distinguish between reliable sources and the not so credible?
Obviously, when linked to credible online resources such as The Independent, BBC News etc. we are aware we are in safe, legit grounds, however when being passed on to the fun social media site Buzzfeed, which has an ever-growing base of breaking news stories, the quality and reliability of these sources could be debated.
Even still, the main problem seems to arise where many young people are letting news find them. Rather than seeking or just simply watching news on the television or reading online newspapers, important news and information will blend with friends photographs and latest status updates. Could this lack of hierarchy potentially be damaging in any way to the way in which we handle the information we receive?
It is also clear, taking an example from my Twitter feed that information is often tailored to our interests and needs. This is often a good thing, a fast approach in which we can read quickly and efficiently something that interests us. But if I am only hearing about things that only interest or affect me, surely this is very limiting. Therefore, one can see that perhaps in our connected society, young people are not accessing equal amount of social and political UK and World News as they should or could be.
Most of us are pretty much addicted to our phones and scrolling through social media. I’ve stopped writing this article about 56 times to check my Facebook, so I think it’s great that we are sharing and discussing what is going on in the world via social media. But maybe, bear in mind that not all current affairs will find you this way. We as young people should be active in the way we receive and seek out news. After all much of it is or will effect us in the future, and in such an interactive, digitalised world, never has there been more opportunity to engage and instigate change in our political and social world through social media.