Most people don’t read the news. Instead, they read the headline and determine if it’s worth sharing in the first place. In our endless scrolls of social media, it is not uncommon to witness a certain post that encourages us to share, perhaps without even looking at the actual article.
Whether this includes a satirical piece on a public figure or an amber alert from three years ago, there has been an increase in seeing reposts of these types of articles based on a headline. This has not only brought damage to what journalists stand for, but to society as a whole.
If you’re on social media, it is more likely that an article with an emotional headline and picture will get shared compared to a post without an emotional charge. Sharing this type of content signifies that you have certain values, or maybe that you’re “woke” to current events that are faced in the world. The content is used to craft your digital identity, which is why it is more common to see individuals share articles that provoke our emotions, curiosity, and a sense of voyeurism.
Hard news can end up being misrepresented in the process of sharing and the way it travels, making the best of journalism really troubling. If people share and don’t read, it means that social media posts become the news content, even when it isn’t the actual story.
In the current face of the pandemic, I have encountered multiple TikToks where individuals introduced the idea that the disease has become airborne. There was no disclaimer that ensured viewers that this wasn’t the case and, eventually, it was something that I regularly saw on my feed.
People are being exposed to false information and, in this case, it is forcing them to act irrationally. Some people are “panic-buying” because of rumors that are related to this one. It is in the best interest of these social media platforms to discredit these posts in order to ensure the safety of their users at all costs, pandemic or not.
Those who share articles without checking dates also raise a similar situation. Most news stories that are made on links shared by regular social media users, and not by the media organization itself, are much older than I generally assumed.
In fact, some had been published for several years, but users were still finding ways to repost these articles. These types of posts can result in unnecessary conflict on social media platforms, and it is important for them to take control of the situation before it becomes bigger than it needs to be.
On Facebook, I came across an article that spoke about the student who was banned from attending graduation because of the texture of his hair. This article was posted by the news organization approximately a year ago, but users were now “discovering” this new information and sharing it to their friends so that they too, can witness this social injustice. Even though there are laws that prohibit hair discrimination, those who shared these articles raised controversy for a situation that has already been resolved.
The increasing use of social media has created a new way for people to convey their messages. Social media applications like Facebook, Snapchat, or Twitter are not just “platforms,” they are companies that publish media to modern society. This is now the new way where people get all their news, especially if they aren’t read from the websites of actual news organizations.
There needs to be an establishment amongst social media platforms to recognize their role in how news content is spread, and how vital it is that they regulate the content that is being shared daily. The scrollable, endless stream of posts that compete for our attention has only encouraged this kind of rapid use without really thinking about what any of it means.
Without even realizing it, we are being conditioned to want snackable content that creates this online persona for ourselves as we share it, thus leading to an increased issue of sharing articles based on their headlines, and not the actual message.