As our usage of new technology increase every day, the older medium gets pushed back and we rely on our smartphones, laptops more. Social media is definitely a rising platform that people are increasingly using and nowadays, majority of the digital natives’ major source of news is from their social media feed. However, it’s arguably true that many of the news that shows up are “false news” and social media plays an enormous role to shape one’s public opinion unconsciously. Digital literacy is a big problem that many people face in today’s society because there are countless articles that aren’t actually true and can’t be credential.
False news is something that happens way too common these days and happens more frequently than it ever has been. This illustrates that many of the citizens are receiving false information and spreading them around, shaping their public opinion. Facebook is a great example to look into this controversy as “…reaching nearly 2 billion people each month, driving more traffic and attention to news than anything else on earth- it’s also become a single point of failure for civic information” (Benton, 2016, pg. 38). Especially the younger generations receive their major source of news from the social media they use the most; however the social media platforms and certain websites all have different political views that they tend to lean on. It’s not very hard to identify if they are left winged or right winged from the articles they post, what kind of language and pictures they use. Ultimately, we can say that people who use Facebook the most are going to have different political views compared to the people who uses The Globe and Mail to get their news.
Furthermore, in today’s society, “We are faced with massive information literacy problems, as shown by the complete inability of students and adults to identify fake stories, misinformation, disinformation, and other forms of spin” (Caulfield, 2016). Many people tend to do a quick research on Google and whatever they find in the first few links, they’ll believe the information without a doubt. In reality, many of the articles are not actually 100% true and exaggerated as long with a certain political view. Users must use their time and follow the tricks such as checking if the information is accurate, author’s credential matters, typography and much more to indicate the false news alarm. The online world is full of fake news, stories and so called “facts” and we must not be caught up with these strategies that companies are using to attract attention.
I, myself am guilty of not taking the time to check if the information is actually accurate and credential. Many people would think that if an article says some sort of “fact” and it is posted CBC, The New York Times or any bigger corporate companies, it would be true and a fact. However, this is definitely not the case and even big companies make mistakes as well. Journalists write articles that’s biased to their own political views and this can seriously affect the reader’s mind and shape how they feel and think about certain things. As an example, before the previous US elections, Facebook was full of articles about how Trump won’t become the president and Clinton will have more chance. All of these countless articles were clickbait, trying to catch the reader’s attention but had fake information on them as Benton mentions (2016), “The fake stuff, when it connects with a Facebook user’s preconceived notions or sense of identity, spreads like a wildfire” (pg.38). As the media shaped certain ideologies in our heads, when Trump was elected, everyone was in complete shock and the media went crazy after all. Countless people were mocking, complaining and even more false news has been created due to this phenomenon.
“Publics are important, not just for enabling political action, but also for providing a mechanism through which we construct our social world. In essence, publics are the fabric of society” (Boyd, 2014, pg. 201). As the public shape ideologies and create viewpoints, social media users have no choice but to follow them. Boyd mentioned that: “Not only has social media enabled new way of being public and being in public, but these same technologies have been used to reconfigure political publics as we know them” (2015, pg. 206). Users scroll through Facebook’s news feed constantly, so fast that they don’t take the time to check if the information is accurate or not. If they see negative posts about Trump, it will shape them to think that a person like Trump won’t become the president of the United States. As Facebook’s feed is filled with ‘Trending’ component, it’s hard to even miss out of these political actions and not care about it. Users will find things that are interesting, comment and share it which spreads enormously leading to a never ending cycle. This is how our media and public are made and there is ultimately no way to stop this. Social media platforms like Facebook are so easy to be politically engaged with and conclusively, it shapes the users’ public opinion.
In conclusion, digital literacy must be essential for our generation to be taught to stop social media from constructing individuals’ thoughts and position. Knowing simple indicators to detect what kind of political view that certain social media or websites has is an important skill to have in our society today and won’t be as affected by the media. The recent US election is a great example of false news and wrongful information that we encounter in our everyday lives. Although Facebook claims they have“…taken a lot of heat since the election for not doing enough to remove fake news reports…” (Guynn, USA Today, 2016), in reality we cannot fully escape from the false news online. “It’s by learning the stuff on a granular level that we form the larger understandings- when you know the difference between a fake news site and an advocacy blog…these tools and process raise the questions that larger theories can answer” (Caulfield, 2016). Digital literacy shouldn’t be an add-on level that we can intake, it should be essential for all online users out there.
- Benton, J. (2016). Get serious about getting rid of fake news. Nieman Reports, 70(4), 38-39.
- Boyd, D. (2014). Searching for a public of their own. In It’s Complicated (pp.213-227).
- Caulfield, M. (2016, December 22). Yes, Digital Literacy. But Which one? Retrieved Feburary 24, 2017, from https://hapgood.us/2016/12/19/yes-digital-literacy-but-which-one/
- Guynn, J. (2016, December 18). Facebook users are fed up with fake news. Retrieved February 24, 2017 from http:// http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2016/12/16/facebook-users-fed-up-fake-news/95477786/