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Relying on social media for news is dangerous

When you leave the country, it’s a given that some things are going to be different, whether it’s politics, currency, language or food. But I did not realize being a few hundred miles from home in the same country, there could also be such stark differences. 

The most notable shock I experienced in Oxford after coming from Maryland was an immediate cold shoulder when anything related to politics came up. 

I grew up browsing the web and reading the news. Like clockwork, my family sat down for dinner and watched NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams at 7 p.m. I did not realize until I got to Oxford how unique my experience was.

Why it’s a problem

In today’s digital age, social media “news” has become extremely prominent, according to PEW research. An increasing number of individuals rely upon social media for their newsfeeds. This not only undermines journalism but also our democracy. The rise of social media brought about a digital revolution no one saw coming, and it destroyed a litany of journalism norms.

Because social media companies have asserted that they are largely not responsible for policing content on their platforms, it has become a dystopian Wild West environment. 

Beyond our many outdated laws, a fundamental part of the problem lies with individuals who solely rely upon their social media feeds for the news, where believability is often unknowingly stretched.

This is an election year, and misinformation is continuously on the rise. Congressman Jim Clyburn said he worries about “whether or not we’re going to have a campaign for the presidency free of all of these interruptions and all of the misinformation.” Congressman Clyburn of South Carolina stated. This past week on Face the Nation , Clyburn touched on his personal experiences of hearing a concerning amount of untrue things. 

Misinformation is continuously destroying the public trust and confidence in our democracy. This poses concerns as the U.S. remains polarized in a time when unity is imperative for the sake of our country and the world.

Why you should care

We hold a responsibility as global citizens to be informed about what is going on not only in our country but across the globe. Although the humanitarian issues going on in Chad may be a world away, it still is a significant issue requiring one’s attention and concern.

Domestically, prominent issues that never seemed to be a debate are now on the table for discussion. It is imperative, especially as a young voter, to use your voice to advocate for what you believe in and remember that your vote does matter. 

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What you can do about it 

Across the nation, an unnecessary mental game of tug of war is taking place, when it is actually possible for things to be simultaneously right … or wrong. 

It is important to understand how crucial open-minded conversations between one and another are. It sheds light upon different perspectives without seeking to tear down another’s perspective or force-feed ideologies to people who disagree.

I decided to poll my friends about how they get their news. The question asked was, “What platform do you rely on for your news?” The answer choices were social media, television/newspaper/radio and none. 

Out of the 11 people who took the poll, 72.7% voted that their main source of information for news is their social media feeds. 

The other 27.3% voted that their understanding of news comes from television/newspaper/radio. 

I was not shocked but admittedly disappointed. Social media is a valuable tool for staying connected with others, but being solely reliant on it leaves individuals vulnerable to misinformation and becoming ill-informed. 

We cannot force individuals to become immediately attuned to what is going on, but you can do your part by creating a more informed public. This can be done by cross-referencing sources before sharing with others, having conversations with peers about issues to learn about other perspectives and continuing to advocate for what you believe in. And most importantly, vote!

Olivia Kerben is a senior double majoring in Social Justice and Professional Writing. Originally from Rockville, Maryland, Olivia has an unwavering passion for social justice and is enthusiastic about her opportunity to serve as an opinion writer for The Miami Student in her final semester.