Whether it’s the conflict in Gaza, the overturning of Roe v Wade, or the death of Matthew Perry, there is always a constant stream of news circulating around our timelines.
I wonder if it is possible to pinpoint the moment when our social media platforms became so heavily saturated with current world affairs. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say the most notable shift occurred during lockdown, following the rapid growth of the Black Lives Matter mass media campaign.
This constantly rotating roster of reports that fills our feeds can sometimes be overwhelming. Often, information is presented in a way that is intended to be attention grabbing and surprising. This way of sensationalising news can cause the information to be compacted so that it is easier to understand. This caters towards the model, that social media platforms adopt, of encouraging consumption in a way that requires a shorter attention span and less focus.
We’re seeing a huge increase in people are using platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and X to educate themselves on recent events, rather than reputable news sites. While this can be beneficial in the way that someone who would not usually seek out information about broader topics can do so in a more accessible way.
Over-reliance on these platforms as people’s primary source of news is leading to passivity and the spread of misinformation.
The condensing of a news piece can cause crucial information to be omitted. Posts will usually just be the heading or a summary of the piece.
The fact that news is frequently presented in such a way also means that people are not bothering themselves to read the full articles as they are becoming accustomed to this newer form of presentation. If people do not read the article, they are missing large portions of context that may be important, particularly when discussing more nuanced topics.
Issues that impact large communities of people are usually larger scale social, economic, or political issues. These issues are not going to change overnight. They aren’t going to change because people are posting on their private Instagram feeds for just their followers to see. The argument is that this can be seen as performative or as virtue signalling.
There is a huge pressure nowadays for people to be seen using their platform to vocalise their opinions and express their political preferences. It is seen as a strength to be educated on social issues and to be able to formulate coherent and articulate thoughts on them.
There’s also huge privilege in being ignorant or unaware of these issues that so many people are unable to escape as it is their day-to-day reality.
The benefits of social media should also be noted. Often, spreading awareness and gaining support for causes further action to be taken. This is exemplified in instances where people are seeking charitable donations, campaigning for change or accountability, or endorsing particular ideologies.
There is much good that can come from sharing on social media. The power of the masses must not go amiss.
At the end of the day, most of us are not superstars with huge followings who are acting as an influence in the public eye. Many times, it can be difficult to log on and immediately be bombarded with the plethora of negative news posts that litter these platforms. This can particularly be demoralising when it seems that many are blindly posting on issues that are broader than the one statement that they’re reduced to. It seems that any sort of posting or commenting on current affairs will get lost within the fray.
It is important to focus on the good that we can see, even when it can seem discouraging at times. It is possible to shift the algorithm, in more ways than one. Posting positive stories, campaigning for genuine causes, and sharing informed and educated opinions on topics is one way to impact the seemingly all-consuming discourse.