By Madalyn Watson | Staff Writer
According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2018, 68 percent of American adults learn about the news through social media; however, 57 percent of these social media users view the information they receive as largely inaccurate.
If we view the news we receive through social media as inaccurate, why do we spend so much time talking politics on social media platforms like Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram?
I believe this is because social media is convenient. Students, like myself, constantly have our phones in our hands. I find myself scrolling through news stories on Snapchat or reading Twitter debates on politics in my spare time, and I am not the only one.
Social media is also extremely appealing to students because of our busy schedules. It is difficult to find the time to watch the news or read full-length articles when we have classes, work and other activities taking up our time.
I believe that limiting ourselves to social media is habit forming. Students should take the time to research their own opinions, away from the influence of social media. When we limit our consumption of news to other people’s opinion on the news, our perspective can become misinformed.
Another survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 84 percent of social media users surveyed feel that the statement “People say things when discussing politics on social media that they would never say in person” describes social media platforms to some degree.
I believe this means we should base our beliefs on political debates and discussions that we conduct in person. Debating politics among our close friends or in classroom settings can be intimidating, but it is better than the anonymity people hide behind when they are online.
Social media also prevents people from backing up their claims with research. For example, Twitter has a character limit of 280 for each tweet. This limit, as well as the short attention span of the majority of social media users, facilitates short and oversimplified statements.
The tone of comments on social media must also be taken into consideration. The tone of a person’s voice can completely change their statement, and stripping these statements of tone and inflection can lead to misinterpretation. Also, jokes about world news and politics that would be said in a comedic tone in person can be misread and taken seriously online.
A report published in Science magazine called ‘The Spread of True and False News Online’ found that false news reaches more people on Twitter than true news.
These false news articles spread quicker online because they typically elicit more of an emotional response. Falsified stories inspired more extreme emotions in social media users because of their novel and extreme nature.
Emotions have always been a part of politics, but with social media, people are able to share their immediate emotional response to world news. This emotional response is valid, but it has driven political commentary online, especially through social media.
For example, when articles are accompanied by a tweeter’s opinion in the form of a retweet, the tweeter’s opinion is viewed to have the same or similar validity as the article.
These emotions ignited by news as well as the trend of commentary and fake news receiving more views on social media show that social media should not be your first and last source for news.