Letter: News needs to be consumed more critically on social media

Most of you reading this probably get your news from social media first. You might see something on Facebook/Twitter/Reddit/Snapchat and then go to a news site like Metro, the Globe and Mail, or the Charlatan, but how many of you turn on the T.V. at a set time every day and watch your news? And how many of you even have a T.V. with cable if you’re a university student living away from your parents?

Getting news from social media isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but social media algorithms definitely show you news catered to what you’ve searched before. Facebook tracks your click history (and even allows you to hide content from any source you wish), making the news we consume a lot more personalized.

News is never neutral, and it never has been. The presentation of facts is biased based on how the facts are presented and what information is being given versus what is being withheld. News on social media caters to showing us the facts that we want to see. It then becomes a reaffirmation of our own beliefs, and this can limit our perspective at best, and, at worst, prove dangerous.

At best, we see our own views echoed back to us, which prevents us from considering others’ worldviews. It’s easy to ignore news that doesn’t appeal to you, and reaffirm ideas that do.  While it may be easy to share an article about how Bill 62 hypocritically marginalizes an already-marginalized group, there isn’t a guarantee that those who should read that article will actually do so.

But that’s not all that bad compared to the insidious ways news on Facebook can be used to manipulate people. With the constant consumption of information, false news can spread easier than ever. Even once something is confirmed to be false, it has already been seen by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.

Reading news through social media means people are often on devices— and reading on devices means people scan rather than read word-for-word. And too many times, people simply read news headings instead of reading the full article, and miss out on what the news actually says.

And that doesn’t even touch upon the way news headings are written and what images are used, and the way these negatively influence perceptions of events.

Take, for example, any terrorist attack in Canada or the United States. News sources reinforce racism and perceptions by continuously referring to white supremacist terrorists with guns as ‘lone wolves,’ a luxury not afforded to racialized groups.

Additionally, Black victims are often pictured with mugshots while white terrorists have innocent-looking graduation photos. When people read news headings and look at photos to make decisions, choices like these marginalize communities that are already in danger.

News on social media can be a good thing—we have access to endless amounts of information, but we also should not let it coddle us and remove any sense of cognizant thought that we can produce. When we see news through social media, we should read it in its entirety before jumping into the comments, and we should engage with the information and make a decision based on the arguments rather than the other way around.