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Read the Real Record

 Students Should Read Actual News Instead of Social Media Posts

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Growing up, I used to visit my grandparents’ house every weekend and always noticed the print newspaper that was delivered every morning. The news was an important part of my time with my grandparents, who modeled an interest in current events daily. Then I realized the only available methods of staying abreast of current events was through print, live television or radio, whereas now we can learn about current events on TikTok, Instagram, podcasts and even Twitter. As social media platforms have increasingly gained popularity over the past few decades, the way that communication is spread has changed, including the news. According to a 2020 study from Pew Research, 71% of Americans get at least some amount of news through social media, an upward trend from 68% in 2018. Even though social media may be the most convenient way to access news, younger generations need to use multiple reputable news sources to form an unbiased understanding of events around the world based on accurate information.

“I check Instagram for updates and use Google to look stuff up,” freshman Michael Boulos said. “We don’t use newspapers anymore.”

One of the biggest issues with information from social media is the amount of misinformation and the speed at which it spreads. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit,  misinformation about the disease such as its symptoms and medications quickly spread across social media platforms, challenging the nation’s trust in public health authorities. According to a 15-year study reported to Science, fake news spreads faster than true news on Twitter. Researchers from the University of Southern California revealed this is largely due to social media users’ inevitable habit of posting, sharing and interacting with others when they engage in a content. The spreading becomes even worse when verified users on Facebook and Instagram are involved because viewers tend to believe the verified badge equals the credibility of the user.

In addition to misinformation, misrepresentation is a big concern when it comes to considering news from social media. Unlike articles from reputable news publications, social media posts carry a limited amount of information because social media itself is not designed to cover news. In other words, posts, stories and short videos can hardly provide all the information in such a short time for the reader to fully interpret an event, so the viewers generally do not take the time to form their own opinion. As a result, social media often carries misleading information and provides a one-dimensional account from a single speaker. 

“Reading [the actual news] allows you to internalize and digest it [the information] on your own,” upper school history teacher Chris Day said. “When you get it from somebody else, you’re getting their interpretations and their point of view. When you read it while that bias is still there, you can digest and think about that more within your world.”

Scrolling through reels on Instagram, I often see videos mocking and criticizing public figures. A common issue with these types of videos is that they take a clip of a video out of context to frame the person in them. For example, edited videos of political authorities such as Biden or Trump can spread misinformation if people believe that the videos are real. When it comes to politics especially, younger generations who are most active on social media become vulnerable to misinformation. As the 2024 election is approaching, the influence of social media on politics is escalating, and surely more attention is needed to encounter these issues.

Despite numerous downsides of social media, its platforms play a significant role when the public demands quick information. Social media not only relieves the difficulties involving looking through multiple websites but also sometimes delivers information that is yet to be published through large news publications. On top of this, the comment section allows users to see reactions of people across the world, a kind of interaction that most types of media don’t have access to.

“I think it [social media] is a quicker way to get information, and I feel like for our generation most people look at that more than they do the newspaper,” junior Riley Robinton said. “Some things could be a little biased, but I feel like I definitely just believe everything I hear.”

For most individuals using social media in the 21st century, it is impossible to completely avoid news information from users without reliable credentials. In addition, despite the general unreliability associated with social media, it sometimes serves as an important source of information. However, to avoid the negative consequences of using social media as a news source, it is crucial to be a critical thinker while obtaining the information. That is, the readers must constantly ask themselves if the source is reliable, influenced by the author’s voice and covering all necessary aspects of the event. Furthermore, they should read the same information through multiple sources, such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, just to name a few, to question the credibility of what they saw on social media.

“[The best way to read news is by] looking at a variety of sources,” upper school English and journalism teacher Deborah Mayer said. “The more you research and the more you know, the better you can come up with your own opinion. Our job as journalism teachers is to teach them to be more critical of those sources and to be more aware of what might be more reliable sources that are there to alter their opinions.”


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Andy Poll

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