Social media is one of the most prominent forms of communication in the modern world, but information and news on your Facebook wall or feed can be misleading.
As of 2015, 1.3 billion people worldwide are active on Facebook alone, and billions more log into Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr and others every day, exposing themselves to a variety of news from a variety of sources. Although the quantity of content is vast and quickly generated, it is important to note that a good chunk of information you find posted on social media is not reliable.
Social media’s main draw is that it is made up almost entirely of user-generated content. In other words, all users have their own unique experiences when they log onto a social media platform. All of the family, friends, community members, organizations, sports teams, musicians and public figures you follow are constantly contributing and sharing news content.
Many popular news sites I’ve seen shared on Facebook, such as Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post, generate mass amounts of news content. However, in the case of Buzzfeed, news found on the site is highly opinionated and lacks any true or credible sources in a vast majority of its content, making the news it reports irrelevant, outlandish, and oftentimes outright lies. Although The Huffington Post reports on a variety of topics and has won a Pulitzer Prize for its work, it relies primarily on contributions made by bloggers who do not have a background in journalism. Fact-checking is difficult in these instances when guest bloggers who have no affiliation or permanent employment with The Huffington Post are writing the news.
Some news sites are just outright bogus and focus more on conspiracy theories than actual news. Pages like The Free Thought Project and InfoWars have as many as 300,000 followers, yet their sites are filled with tall tales of government corruption and other conspiracies delivered in scathing articles that criticize police and government tactics without naming credible sources or publishing vital information that would give the full picture of the events that are discussed.
Another large problem in the reporting of news on social media is how easily one can be swayed by biased reporting. Two news sources I have seen reposted and shared on various social media sites, Independent Journal Review and Think Progress, are two of the biggest offenders of media bias I have seen online.
Independent Journal Review articles are often found, shared and reposted by users who follow conservative news pages on social media, and news and information reported by the site pushes a conservative Republican agenda that heavily criticizes all liberal media and policies, sometimes in an offensive and distasteful manner. On the liberal left, we have Think Progress, which overwhelmingly stresses news relevant to liberal Democrats while steering clear of any and all news that paints conservatives in a positive light.
When considering where to obtain reliable and informative news, there are plenty of print and online sources to choose from. The New York Times, The Washington Post, Reuters and other publications deliver real news written by professional writers who are skilled and trustworthy. Although a source of great quantity, the quality of social media news is greatly lacking.
Sophomore journalism major
Printed in the 04/22/15 issue.