OPINION: Social media damages our news consumption

     The fast-paced, technology-centric world of today continues to morph the way people interact with the world — a prime example of this being the way information is shared on a mass scale. 

     The internet itself has become a tool to unite people and connect information and ideas, but the idea of public response has changed too. People not only have the opportunity to provide their own commentary on current events, but also decide what is and isn’t relevant by their engagement with trending topics. 

     News is being tarnished by social media platforms that promote trending content and allow public commenters to dominate news spaces.  

     Twitter allows users to see personally targeted information as well as the hottest topics. When one clicks on a trending topic, they read three or four tweets from reputable news sites before descending deeper into “top” content that comes from any number of accounts on the platform. 

     And what is it that we’re really reading anyway? Those first tweets from news or verified accounts give you maybe 40 words of the most important information. Maybe there’s an article linked too, but chances are we’re diving further into more tweets before we engage with that article because we’re so accustomed to scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. 

     This is where misinformation happens. Journalism is supposed to follow a code of ethics, reporting accurately and accountably. It could be argued that some news outlets are struggling with this, but I believe that the information coming from an article is going to be more accurate than just anyone’s thoughts in a tweet.  

     Fake news persists on other platforms like Facebook and Instagram as well. Anyone can be convinced by a professional looking graphic with misleading quotes, misinformation or conspiracy theories, and social media platforms make sharing this misinformation easier than ever.   

     According to Tech Times, companies like Meta — which owns Instagram and Facebook — are doing significant work to combat misinformation, but it seems like a lot of companies are in a trial phase to identify the right method to eliminate fake news.  

     There is also the issue of trending information. The top of Twitter’s feeds are dominated by topics people are talking about the most. So, instead of getting the most important information on current events first, we might be seeing the latest Kardashian-Jenner dramas or some B-list celebrity’s nudes getting leaked because that is what people are tweeting about.  

     This structure makes it more difficult for individuals to find news topics that are worthwhile. 

     According to The New York Times, there are solutions to better navigate news on the internet and avoid false information: Fact check information yourself by identifying information sources and cross referencing, and be more selective about where you get your information.  

     Reputable news sources are going to be better than the half-baked opinion of anyone with Wi-Fi and a smartphone every time, even if it means taking the time to pause the scrolling and read through a full length article.