BY MAGDA SALIBA
Odds are, you are part of the majority of students at Payton who get their news from social media.
This may not seem so surprising to most teens today, as social media often rules most of our lives, but the new era of receiving information through social media platforms is completely changing the way we digest information.
Payton’s collective knowledge of current events may be becoming skewed, as more students partake in clickbait culture and the wave of following “news” sources based on what one desires to see.
In a Paw Print poll conducted with 100 Payton students, 60% of students receive their knowledge on world and country-wide news through social media. This number is high, considering that only a few decades ago, there was no social media to share news on.
“It really is surprising to hear that so many of my peers are only using social media to learn about current news, especially when social media is full of untrustworthy sources,” said Molly Pfeifer ‘20.
“When I scroll through my Instagram and Snapchat, there are clearly tweets and articles that are fake or only tell one side of a story, especially when it comes to politics,” said Pfeifer.
When learning about political events, 45% of students use applications and websites like Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube, while only 42% of students used television and online news publications (the remaining 13% used various methods such as spoken word and radio).
These statistics illustrate the lack of student access to traditional news publications that report on politics with information that can be fact-checked and access to articles that cover wide varieties of topics that a reader might not see if they are simply following news accounts that entertain their own beliefs.
While social media can easily connect readers to many unique sources and points of view all through a phone screen, it can easily become a clickhole of news articles that don’t offer information that is confirmed to be true or opinions that are different from your own.
Snapchat’s new update creates a discover page full of “news” publications that are specifically tailored to what you view the most.
The danger in this update is that readers no longer are exposed to news sources that offer additional perspectives, or simply stories that can be fact-checked.
Many teens were interested in the topic of the engagement of Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson over the summer, but now that is all that is present in the Snapchat news feed. This story was published multiple times by news sources that solely used anonymous quotes as facts that were not verified as true.
Not only were these stories repetitive and untrustworthy, but they dominated news feeds for weeks on end, pushing sources like The New York Times and NBC to the bottom of the Snapchat feed.
Sophia Aguilar ‘20 and Victoria Melecio ‘20 voiced their dislike over the switch in content present on Snapchat, pointing out the lack of “important” articles compared to what they viewed as clickbait.
“Now I see more about Kim Kardashian than anything about the government,” Aguilar stated.
Melecio shared her discontent as she pointed out that the publications also have ended sharing local information: “[Snapchat] used to be full of news about like, a house burning or impending hurricanes, but now all they are is like ‘Look at this girl in a bikini!’ That’s not what I even want to read. It’s all clickbait.”
Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook prioritize clickbait-y articles about pop culture instead of sharing articles that might offer more substantial knowledge on current events.
Unsurprisingly, 93% of the student population used social media to receive information on pop culture, but these same students are also using social media for information on substantial world events.
Many students are also concerned about the lack of diversity of thought on social media, as it is easy to simply follow accounts that share the same views as the reader’s beliefs.
“I feel like social media is very polarizing in a way. People become divided on the platforms. Social media doesn’t really change your point of view since most sources are extremely one-sided and you can pick which ones you want to follow,” said Francisco Jimenez ’20.
As Jimenez points out, social media services also make it easier to ignore publications that share reputable sources and attempt to offer multiple perspectives on current events, because readers can simply unfollow or block media that doesn’t immediately appeal to their opinions.
Social media could potentially shape the collective of Payton students through the presence of sources that are tailored to topics and facts that each individual would prefer to read.
While the same thing could be said for any other source of news media, like choosing to watch CNN over Fox News or reading the Huffington Post instead of the Wall Street Journal, social media often offers extremely biased sources that are rarely validated to be true.
Other news sources often offer the best attempt at unbiased news, as the main principles of journalism arguably still hold some importance in today’s era.
Though social media has made access to current events much more streamlined within the lives of teenagers, this new wave of non-traditional news sources could have a potentially grave impact on the collective knowledge of the Payton student body, possibly creating a new generation of minds that are not exposed to various topics or multiple perspectives.