[Update: I added some facts about social media usage to my top paragraphs, in order to better structure my argument. I also included some thought-provoking questions towards the end of this post.]
Whilst my interest in the lives of the Kardashians teeters on nil, there are many other topics of interest out there that I like to keep on top of and get involved in. But in the fast and constantly moving society of today, how is a 20-year-old student supposed to keep up with all the latest news when watching the 6 o’clock news and sitting down on a Sunday morning to read the paper aren’t always convenient options? Why, social media, of course!
Social media has changed the way we interact with information for the better. In danah boyd’s Educause Review, she affirms that the ‘old school’ ways of tuning into the nightly news to receive the same message at the same time, and reading newspapers and listening to radio stations which all give the same perspective on the same story is going out the door. In a study of Social Media as Online Information Grounds, it was found that social media platforms promote the use of virtual spaces to enable information grounds that can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and by anyone. The study states, ‘the openness, transparency, and availability of social media has also helped users share, disseminate, and find information in online spaces.’ This statement correlates with the data that social media has become one of the top sources of news, with over 50% of people learning about breaking news over social media, rather than official news sources.
This is certainly true for me. Social media is the only platform I use in order to stay up to date with news on topics that I’m interested in. A review by Lyndelle Gunton and Kate Davis explains how Twitter is an excellent news source, as those who connect to Twitter experience an enormous surge of information throughout the day, with users able to share, bookmark and evaluate information as soon as they see it. I personally check Twitter’s Discover and Trends sections regularly as it is an excellent way for users such as myself to keep up to date on the most recent current affairs. It comes as no surprise to me that Erik Qualman’s video on socialnomics states that grandparents are the fastest growing demographic on Twitter.
According to Buzzz’s Social Media Revolution 2015 video, ‘We no longer search for the news, the news finds us…’ An example of this is when I stumbled across the news on reddit that the House of Representatives passed the Data Retention Bill. The comment section for that particular reddit post was filled with angry redditors cursing the government and debating over which VPN provider is best. It was a very interesting discussion to get into – a discussion that would not have happened had I learned the news from watching the news on the TV, with no one around me to have a discussion with. By subscribing to subreddits such as /r/news, /r/technology, and /r/australia, I get to read the latest news and information on my interests on my front page every day.
Along with reddit, I also use Instagram to keep on top of the latest hair and beauty trends, as well as to see what’s happening behind the scenes of Grey’s Anatomy. Facebook keeps me up to date on anything and everything concerning my friends and family: scholarship offers, travel destinations, new cars, babies’ first steps, what level my mum just passed on Candy Crush. By liking pages such as UNILAD, I can view all the latest pop culture information in a format that is entertaining and easy to read and share with my own friends. I have to this day never liked a page of a typical news provider (think ABC News), however, enough of my Facebook friends have liked the pages so that if a particular news story is popular enough I will end up seeing the story on my news feed anyway. If certain news events are important to me, there will often be a page or group created that I can like or join to ensure I don’t miss any part of the story. An example of this is Cyclone Pam and its devastating effects on Vanuatu. By joining the Vanuatu Cyclone PAM 2015 group I am constantly flooded with updates on what is currently happening over in the South Pacific island nation.
The best advantage social media has over any other news source is that you can choose what information you do and don’t want to see. Like dogs? Follow some dog accounts on Instagram. Don’t like finance? Unsubscribe from any finance subreddits. Enjoy checking out what Hugh Jackman is up to from time to time but don’t want to be inundated by info? Like his Facebook page, but unfollow from constant updates.
‘Social media isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.’ Information on social media is ever changing and ever flowing. Social media users today are more informed than ever before, with the option to customise their platforms to their own interests, there is no reason for anyone to be left out of the loop concerning their passions and interests. Social media has brought people together through shared interests, and will continue to enlighten lives with all news of importance. Until my phone runs out of battery again, that is.
Readers, in what ways do you use your different social platforms to keep up with current affairs? Do you prefer the social approach, or are you more ‘old fashioned’ in the ways you gather news?