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Social Media is an Increasingly Popular News Source: What Does That Mean for the Future?

Now that the American presidential election is fast approaching, people are either scrambling to get educated about the candidates, or desperately looking for ways to shield themselves from the barrage of media input. No matter which category you’d put yourself in, it’s important to realize that statistics from the start of the year indicated that social media is a news source that’s increasing in popularity, especially among young people. Let’s look at some associated positive and negative factors.
Social Media Isn’t Always Reliable

Perhaps you’ve been warned not to believe everything you read online. That’s often because there are many novice journalists and bloggers who don’t do a good job of separating opinion from fact, and they may not use scholarly sources to back up their claims.

Unfortunately though, people frequently accept what they read on the Internet as true. Rather than looking for accompanying websites that support what they initially read, people are prone to reading things from single sources, and just assume those are reliable. That not only means people may get information that’s not fully factual, but it increases the chances those individuals may share it among their friends.
News Travels Fast Online

In the past, if people wanted to share the news about a newborn baby or other notable event, they’d pick up the phone and call their friends. Often, these individuals would create “phone trees” so that they’d only have to call a few people and then pass the responsibility of spreading the news to those who had just received it.

That method of communication was undoubtedly fast, but comparatively, social media is significantly quicker, due in large part to the way hundreds or even thousands of people can get news in seconds. After someone posts a status update, everyone in that person’s social network receives notification of the news within. That’s usually okay when it relates to someone’s personal life and is news they genuinely want to share, but it can become harmful when the news is related to something in society.
People May Receive More News From Questionable Sources

During election seasons, people are particularly likely to get news from many places, but may not be able to recall the exact sources. They pick up information here and there as they go about their daily lives, but aren’t able to recall where each fact came from. This reality is theoretically even more likely to occur across social media, because people may get information from hundreds of sources each time they go online and scroll through their feeds.
Benefits of Social Media

Despite everything you’ve read so far, social media isn’t necessarily a bad way to receive news, or get educated in other ways. There have been many instances where news about crimes and disasters has broken on social media, and only picked up by major media outlets afterwards.

Also, social media is great for providing users with curated information that prevents them from having to go all over the Internet for what they need. The HamptonCreek Facebook page does that nicely by appealing to people who want to eat well. Hampton Creek is a company that makes it easy to enjoy healthy cuisine without hassles. The content of its Facebook page echoes that theme through lighthearted videos that show people how simple it is to cook healthy things at home.

There are also numerous companies in the travel industry that encourage people to turn to social media to get the latest updates about travel delays, destination weather forecasts, and changes in itineraries. Without social media as a resource, people might waste time sitting on their cell phones trying to get their questions answered that way.

Finally, social media is perhaps the most efficient way to receive guidance about local businesses. As mentioned earlier, news travels quickly across social media. Happy customers can give praise in seconds, while angry ones vent frustration to the masses. Therefore, your social media feed could point you in the right direction about which businesses to try, and which to avoid.

Hopefully, it’s now clear that there are pros and cons related to the fact that people are increasingly dependent on social media for news. In any case, it’s always best to get news from several sources instead of only one.