Social media has become an overwhelming part of our everyday lives and with that, all the tools and platforms on which they exist. We implore people to use these platforms as tools for news, as long as they are from reputable news sources.
The issue we have is that people do not use social media as a tool to get news from reputable sources; they use it as a news source not caring which source it comes from.
With more people having access to social media news, mobile users increasing to 28 percent in the last year according to Pew Research’s “State of the news media report,” and sharing it with their friends, 73 percent, without any filters or research, a distrust in the news has increased over the years.
For example, your high school friend shares a news story because they read the headline and it sparked an emotion. This shared news story was not validated as real news, this is why entities like snopes.com exist, but now you have looked at it and, based off your feeling of the day, you could have clicked and shared it. Creating a cycle that increases “fake news,” while making valid, hard working news sources look less credible.
Knowing where the source of the news comes from is almost as important as the news they are sharing because if the source is not reputable then they could be out right lying. Take the controversy of Russia interfering with the election via news pushed out on social media platforms. According to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the election, “Many Americans engaged with the Russian trolls without knowing who or where they really were.” Many Russian groups tried to arrange rallies to create anger and hate and some succeeded, according to Mueller. A Russian group created “Stop the Islamization of Texas” rally where “a dozen people turned out for the first event, some carrying rifles, Confederate flags and a banner saying “White Lives Matter,” faced off across a street with a far larger crowd of counter protesters,” and while no trouble happened at the event, it was all caught on video.
This video was shared thousands of times and, according to Facebook, “338,300 people saw the bogus promotion of the rally.” All of this was “designed not just to provoke division among Americans but also to denigrate Hillary Clinton and support her rivals, mainly Mr. Trump.” News shared via social media without checking the source could have changed the way our country runs and operates. If that doesn’t scare you, we’re afraid nothing will. You are educated; use that education to make sound choices when sharing news.
We have come to a campus to gain extra knowledge and a piece of paper (we hope you get more out of college but that’s the basics). If we are all paying extra money to learn something, why would we share information from the masses that lack the same level of education; Americans with some college or less increase their social media news sharing up to 69 percent, according to Pew Research.
A lack of education, a lack of research into sources of news information has made this an era of “Look at me, I’m right.” Meaning that you believe that you are right in all aspects, that you listen to those who agree with you and have little to no discussion with the opposite side. You create what’s called an echo chamber, people echoing each other to confirm their beliefs.
Our current president does this on a large scale. If he doesn’t like what you’re saying, he will unfriend you or block you. This scale shows how he believes something and only allows those who agree with him to “echo” their approval. This can be dangerous. According to The Guardian’s article, “Echo chambers are dangerous – we must try to break free of our online bubbles.” Echo bubbles increased the chances of “cyberbullying, troll factories, campaigns of misinformation and more.” This type of social interaction offline creates a loss of shared experiences and values; we become less connected and less diverse. Break the echo chamber, open yourself up to hearing others opinions (you don’t have to agree just see where they are coming from) and break this cycle of manipulation from disreputable news sources.
The good side to this is that currently 60 percent of Americans get their news directly from reputable news organizations, according to the American Press Institute, but this is across all media platforms: radio, television, newspapers and social media. Now we just need to get that number to reflect on social media alone.
We are not saying burn social media news and cut it from your life. We are saying that we all need to be aware of the sources of our information, hold these entities accountable and use it to connect us, not divide.