As our society becomes increasingly immersed in an Internet-based way of functioning, more and more people are seeing their information come from social media. According to a report issued by the Pew Research Center, 44% of adults in the United States receive most or all of their news from Facebook.
|Graphic from Pew Research Center report on social media as a source for news.|
62% of adults receive their news from some form of social media.
This is a significant development, and points to a concerning trend of isolation from opposing viewpoints.
Before the 24-hour news cycle, everyone tuned into one of just a couple news stations each evening for the news. Outside of that, all news came from the newspaper. Since news sources were supported by such a wide array of readers and viewers, their broadcasts were much more fact-oriented and less focused on appealing to a specific market. That changed with the advent of the 24-hour news cycle and the introduction of the Internet.
Since that time, news sources have narrowed their focus to capture a specific demographic of news-seekers, typically zeroing in on a certain political ideology.
Although we have seen news networks get labeled with specific biases (i.e. Fox – Conservative, CNN – Liberal, NBC – Moderate/Liberal, etc.), the fact is that things are much worse on the Internet than on television.
In the 2016 presidential election, fake news links received more engagement on Facebook than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News, and others. This poses a serious issue in that, not only are people being exposed to fake news, but that social media algorithms prevent them from seeing news from both sides of the spectrum.
Personally, I was a debater in high school, so I learned early on how to do research and how to find and cite reputable sources. Along that path, I’m now studying journalism. That career choice forces me to set my own political views aside and work to figure what the facts are.
As such, I follow a variety of different news sources diligently. On my phone, I have the apps and receive notifications from more than ten different news and media outlets. That wide array and flow of information allows me to find the commonalities between the different stories. 99% of the time, those commonalities are the unbiased facts. (99% is an arbitrary number I made up. I have no idea if it’s accurate or not.)
By distinguishing the facts from the opinion pieces and the fake news stories, I am able to have a coherent discussion that only utilizes facts and evidence. I am able to avoid my own “truth bubble”, and instead work on disseminating the facts that need to be heard.
I think it’s essential for people to be open to opposing viewpoints, and to confront their own ideologies with those that may conflict with their beliefs. Only by doing that will people be able to avoid becoming trapped inside their own “truth bubbles”.