Long gone are the days when rustling through a newspaper with ink-stained fingers was the only way to get the news. Throughout the 20th century, advancements such as radio and television drastically changed the way we created and consumed news. Then came the Internet during the past two decades, representing possibly the largest shift to date. Yet the technological forefront of communications is now being disrupted once again, with the rise of social media.
While often viewed as a millennial fad, the use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social platforms is spreading across all age groups and demographics, accounting for an increasing amount of news consumption. A 2015 study by the Media Insight Project found that 88 percent of millennials say they get some news from Facebook, with 57 percent of those respondents reporting they do so daily. Furthermore, 40 percent of all Americans say they sometimes get news from social media, including 60 percent of those aged 30-39 and 40 percent of 40-59 year-olds.
Although social media is infiltrating more and more of our daily lives, relying on it to get our news poses risks as well as rewards. Using Facebook, Twitter and other platforms for news sourcing places limitless information, literally, at our fingertips, but also challenges us to rethink the way we consume news and judge the value of what we read.
With that in mind, here are some of the pros and cons of using social media for news sourcing.
One of the clearest advantages of getting the news from social media is its easy access. The accessibility of social networks across devices makes them easy to use on the go and one of the most convenient ways to read news.
Instead of flipping through several newspapers or jumping between various websites, social media allows us to aggregate personalized news with the click of a button. By simply ‘liking’ or ‘following’ our favorite publications, reporters or trends, we can keep up-to-date on a variety of news coverage without any hassle.
Surely one of the most salient aspects of social media news sourcing is the timeliness of the coverage. Constantly updated Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds ensure that the news is actually “new” throughout the day.
Engaging news issues on social media also allows us to interact with others within our networks. Sharing an article, liking someone else’s post or retweeting a link are great ways to start a conversation or to share information about topics we are interested in.
While social media allows us to develop our own personalized news feeds, this source is inherently limited. It can be very easy to isolate ourselves from news topics, opinions and perspectives we don’t like by simply choosing the ones that make us most comfortable. Therefore, it is important to avoid this short-sighted tendency and allow ourselves to encounter wider varieties of news on social platforms.
It’s also vital to keep in mind that most news we encounter on social media is a stark abbreviation of the whole story. It is impossible to fit a profound explanation of a complex topic in 140 characters on Twitter or even in a Facebook post. This means the news encountered on these platforms requires further investigation and reading for us to be truly well-informed.
Although many of us use social media to get our news, that’s only one of the many functions of social media platforms. We tweet, post, Instagram and Snapchat to share our lives and experiences with others. So it’s important to recognize that using social media as a news source will include a lot of personal “interference” or “noise” that wouldn’t appear in more traditional news sources.
Social media allows us to crowd source our news, gathering content from both professional and personal sources. While this approach has its advantages, it can also lead us to read and believe information that is either highly skewed or downright false. A critical perspective is required when judging the relevance, usefulness and accuracy of content found on social media platforms.
It is clear that when used properly, social media offers us a wealth of information that vastly improves our lives – in ways that previous generations never could have thought possible. Using social platforms to source news can bring great benefits to our lives, as long as we stop to consider both its advantages and limitations.
— Joe Cerrone, Intern