Image Courtesy of Sara Kurfess at unsplash.com
Julia Neves, Queen’s University
Edited by Kenzie O’Day
Social media has become a leading force in connecting, sharing, and dispersing information. With so many platforms to choose from, each with their own mechanisms, it has broadened our communication horizons like never before. However, a wave of distaste for social media has emerged, and nowadays, it only seems to be increasing. This negative outlook on what has become a key information channel in society is warranted since social media does have its adverse effects. Research has shown that there is a high correlation between heavy social media use and mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression. While this pushes the belief that it is entirely harmful, it does have its redeeming qualities – namely, its potential for outreach when it comes to current events that are not being talked about in mainstream media.
Due to its deep integration into global society, social media allows for current events to be easily spread between cities, countries, and continents. Mainstream media outlets such as The Washington Post and CNN are dedicated to dispersing this information. However, they are lacking in certain aspects. Firstly, obtaining information from news broadcasts or newspapers requires actively seeking it out. If you want to be informed of current events you will either have to read the newspaper or watch the news, both of which require a desire to attain information that not many individuals have. This is especially true for younger generations. Secondly, most of these articles or broadcasts are not easy to digest by readers. This often depends on the news source, but in most instances, it requires time or effort to grasp the situation fully. Many of these news sources aim to write for an 8th-10th grade level of understanding. Even though it seems to be targeted toward a lower reading level than expected, it does suggest that there is a higher order of thinking necessary. Lastly, some countries’ current events are given prevalence over others, while some are even censored completely. Politics has a grasp on almost every aspect of our lives, and journalism is no exception. There are countries that are always being spoken about in the media (the United States, China, and Russia, to name a few), but there are many other equally pressing issues that receive little to no global media coverage. They are either overshadowed, given less attention, or are not reported on due to censorship reasons, as is the case with Myanmar under their current regime. The faults of traditional news broadcasting are corrected by the capabilities of social media.
Social media provides a platform for presenting current events in a quick, informal, and accessible way. With the Black Lives Matter movement, many users created hashtags, shared videos, or made quick posts that contributed to the massive spread of this information. The easy access that these platforms provide, and this informal way of conveying information, has made digesting content for modern-day society simple. Although the use of technology has become nearly excessive, its omnipresence has made us a more informed generation. I am also guilty of aimlessly scrolling, watching videos, liking posts, and talking to friends on social media. More than once, I have been made aware of current events that I don’t see covered heavily in the news. One recent example is the oil spill that happened last month in Peru, which I found out about through a friend’s Instagram story. This oil spill has been devastating to the country and has been declared an environmental emergency. Another instance occurred in 2020 when an unfair election was protested against in Thailand, which I learned about on TikTok. This was around the same time TikTok became a valuable source for following the Black Lives Matter movement that swept the United States and Canada. In 2014, protests in Venezuela surfaced on social media and gained so much traction that they ended up being covered by mainstream media. A video of a student being killed during a protest went viral online, and soon after, this video was broadcasted all over the world. Instances such as these show how powerful social media is and how it has become an integral part of reporting news, making it a useful tool for journalism.
Social media is a double-edged sword: it can be seen neither as wholly negative nor wholly positive. Some view these platforms as being entirely damaging due to the increase in mental illness associated with their usage. However, social media has proved that its objective of connecting individuals and providing a platform that allows them to share information at a rapid rate, has become imperative for our society. The potential that social media exhibits in making current events easily digestible, accessible, and widespread, has made our generation well-informed on current events as they are happening.
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