Social media has become the new source for instant information. Facebook and Twitter are the news source for an increasing population who doesn’t want to wait until 6pm to hear what happened during the day. Users can now log into their social media site of choice and get the latest information directly from their friends, and receive information that is directly relevant to their lives or interests. Take for instance The Clix Group, a social media company in St. Louis. Our blog posts are tweeted and posted on Facebook!
Social media is changing the way that we receive news as a society, and it amplifies reactions to cases that would not have received such attention in its absence.
The Old Media:
Let’s be honest, my parents aren’t exactly social media savvy. Actually, they have no clue what social media really does. My mom can’t even open a word document on her own, much less log in to a website (I still love you, Mom). For people in this situation, news comes in traditional formats. We’re talking newspapers, magazines, and the local news programs. In that kind of communication, there is a single sender (the media) and the receiver (the audience). The message flow is omni-directional and the audience takes a passive role.
When watching the news or reading the paper, the audience gets the “unbiased” opinion of a given station and is not invited to offer their own comment. Ok, you could call the station or write a letter to the editor, but honestly, it’s not a very productive system. There isn’t a lot of audience feedback here, and public opinion remains muted.
The New Media:
It’s not a secret that I’m a fan of social media. I think it’s a great sharing tool and awesome for promotional purposes. When you get your news solely through social media such as Facebook or Twitter it is important, however, to consider the source. The advantage of algorithms and sharing information with friends is that you are automatically directed to searches that relate to your interests or concerns. This is a double edged sword, because you are directed to issues or events that relate to your passions and those issues are presented in a format loaded with the opinions of the people you consider to have valuable views. Users can comment on a post or story when they share it, and you, the viewer, are hit with the opinion before you have a chance to read the facts and form your own decision.
Example: If I’m scrolling through my news feed and I see a friend has posted a story with the comment “This is a crazy example of XYZ!” I’m predisposed to take that person’s opinion in mind when I read the article for myself, regardless of the actual implications of the facts. I consider myself to be an educated person, and I still value the opinions of my friends.
The catch with this new social media news distribution is that it projects the opinions of a few onto the masses and creates the court of public opinion. The projection of opinion occurs through the “liking” of statuses, re tweets, and reposting information with commentary. In sharing the information, you are unwittingly sharing the opinion of the previous poster. Not something you always want.
Social media has also created the court of public opinion and projected it on a global scale. Everything from political events, protests, and criminal trials are massively distributed.
Making a Change:
Social media is the future of news and information sharing, but it will be up to the public to develop the ability to evaluate the quality of content and opinions of their friends. When commenting and sharing news stories it is helpful to focus on the factual information.