Updated: Oct 5
I was about fifteen years old when I first joined social media, which was lightyears after most of my peers. By that age, they were well-seasoned veterans. Six years later at twenty one years old, I can probably count on one hand the amount of days I’ve spent away from social media. A frightful yet accurate remark. While most generations wake up and check the news, my generation's eyes are barely open before logging onto Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter, etc. In many ways, these social media platforms have become our sources of news. However, there seems to be an immediate, almost critical reaction to this idea. The legitimacy of social media, a space almost completely inhabited by the younger generation, seems too far-fetched for the generations before us. Repeatedly, we are told that this cannot be, because social media is not reality. But what if this is the new reality, what then?
Now, I am not blind to the fact that social media can be a very harmful and misleading place. With such a large audience, and no shortage of content, disinformation floats around like a ship lost at sea. This is the danger of social media: exposure to fake news and propaganda and the difficulty of having to identify it. But what about this is different from any other source of news? Disinformation has been an issue long before social media became as prevalent as it is today. The risks are the same, and the damage is just as detrimental. The only difference is that social media isn’t seen as a reliable source of news.
When you hear the words “Tik Tok”, you probably think of short, thirty second dance videos. Perhaps your mind first visits one of the many foolish trends. Regardless of what it is you think of, I can almost guarantee it’s not influencers such as @pearlmania500, a creator who shares news stories and political discourse and was invited to the scene of the I95 collapse in PA by the governor because the governor knows that he has more reach and influence locally than any news channel when it comes to young people. Or @underthedesknews, who has been to the white house multiple times for the same reason. Users such as these create content that spreads just the same as any other Tik Tok trend or challenge. You see, the unique aspect to these social media platforms is the ability to choose the content you consume. And, as views and popularity grow, content finds itself onto more and more users' screens. Eventually, it becomes unavoidable.
So, maybe the problem is not how we are consuming our news, but more so the accuracy of what we are consuming. And to me, that isn’t just an issue on social media, but one as a society. I believe it is more important to learn key skills of identifying disinformation in the media using strategies such as critical thinking and asking questions, rather than expending energy to fight what seems to be the inevitable. If our youth, our future, is growing up under the influence of a different source of media, why shouldn’t we encourage that media to consist of things that will benefit users? Why not allow Tik Tok and Instagram to become common and dependable sources of news? A new reality is not a bad one…as long as we don’t allow it to be.