By Ellen Cicchitti
Many people use social media, no matter what their age. I’ve seen teenagers as young as 13 conversing with people around the age of 70. Social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, provide people to hear different viewpoints and see other parts of the world through another’s posts.
Even though I have a Facebook, and even though I recently made a Twitter so I could connect to people as a writer, I find that I rarely use the platforms unless someone sends me a link or tells me about something that I can only find through those sites.
I haven’t been using social media for a variety of reasons. One reason is that I kept hearing terrible stories about data mining and privacy usage, especially through Facebook, so those stories made me use it less. The second reason is that school and clubs have made me too occupied to scroll through my newsfeed for even a few minutes. Another reason was that I always saw awful stories being shared more often than good ones, and once I realized how depressed I felt after just wading through the muck of Facebook news, I decided to cut my time even more.
Though I’m happy with my choices, I realize that shutting them off may have hindered my information flow.
I never realized how much news I received from Facebook and Twitter until one of my professors mentioned that another mass shooting took place last Thursday, November 8. I had no idea that it had happened until she told us in class. That was when I realized how out of the loop I was, and for a moment, I wondered why. Then it hit me immediately. I didn’t have news notifications on my phone or iPod, I didn’t even scroll through Facebook or Twitter that much, and my YouTube recommendations rarely bring up news stories since I don’t watch those types of videos.
Part of me sees how terrible this is, that my straying away from social media has made me less aware of the world around me. But I see more positive aspects of this. Many news stories that are shared on sites tend to be heavily biased on either side of a political spectrum. When they’re shared by others, they’re often shared with commentary rather than actual facts, so a debate could be sparked among other users who most likely hadn’t read past the headline. When people post stories, they don’t post the facts; they post their opinions on it.
A couple months ago, I stumbled upon a New York Times article, “Here’s What I Learned,” where the writer, Farhad Manjoo, had turned off his social media and made sure that he obtained a majority of his news from print newspapers. He said that he’s become more widely informed and “less anxious and less addicted to the news.” He even realized that he had more free time because of this. He mentioned three short instructions that really stuck out to me: “Get news. Not too quickly. Avoid social.”
I find the “not too quickly” part to be the most important. Most people share the first bite of news information that managed to leak out. At that point, only a few facts have been gathered. More questions are raised than answered in those first couple of blurbs. This gives way to speculation and a spread of misinformation. Instead of having a few professionals do all the work of investigation for us, we try to be our own journalists and find the truth. But this rarely works, since many of us don’t even know how to search for reliable sources. Many of us aren’t even professional journalists. If we were, then we wouldn’t see so much “fake news.”
We have forgotten how to wait, how to seek out news platforms that are interested in deep research and deep stories. We need to get out of that rut. People often lament that they can’t trust the media anymore, but that’s probably because they’re not doing enough searching for a more objective point of view. Print newspapers are part of the solution, but they’re not the only form of media one can find–listening to news podcasts or looking at a newsletter or a magazine article once a day can help, too. As long as people can find a news platform that relies more on accuracy and complexity rather than breakout stories and speed, they’ll be able to rest easily.
While I still don’t plan on using social media more, I know that I need to seek out better news platforms, so I can feel widely-informed on whatever happens around the world. I don’t ever want to feel out of the loop again.