By AMBER AINSWORTH, Editor-in-Chief
A powerful tool for sharing information, social media plays both a positive and negative role in this year’s election.
News on Facebook is fast and easy to get. While scrolling through the newsfeed, one can see a meme about the election, read some status updates made by friends, catch the headline of a breaking news story and watch a video about how to bake a cake, all in under a minute.
For a fast-paced, busy society, this is great. Downfalls exist though.
Social media’s role in the election is powerful, with citizens seeing updates on the candidates and keeping up with what has been said or occurred that day, possibly even just that hour.
For instance, memes provide a quick blurb of a quote or issue, overhauling wordier and dry articles that may contain the full story.
Rafael Rivero, who runs Facebook Page Occupy Democrats, would use email blasts from Bernie Sanders to create memes for the page. In doing so, points from the emails would get across without Facebook users having to read the entire email.
When not reading, though, how much is being missed? When only taking in a small fragment of a bigger picture, what is being misunderstood or misrepresented?
It’s easy to catch a headline on Facebook and feel informed or form an opinion on the topic of the piece without actually even clicking the story. This is dangerous.
While not election related, an example of how this can cause issues was prevalent on social media this past summer. Articles about celebrities passing were re-posted around Facebook with users adding notes about how sad the losses were.
The catch? A majority of these articles were from years ago, some as long ago as the early 2000s.
If a headline is all it takes to catch attention and warrant a share on Facebook, this is plenty of false information involving the election floating around.
With Facebook media, it’s not about writing a well-written story; it’s about creating a headline that is sharp and attention grabbing. Sometimes, that headline is all that matters.
Additionally, it is those headlines that people are using to back up their opinions they already have.
The New York Times said, “Many people simply want to share specific beliefs, to tell people what they think or, just as important, what they don’t.”
When Facebook users are concerned about sharing content and perfecting their own brand of views on social media, some important facts could go unnoticed because they don’t fit the agenda. A supporter of Hillary Clinton, for example, might fill their Facebook wall with memes of all the unsavory things Donald Trump has said. Likewise, a Trump supporter’s page may be filled with posts about ISIS and his ideals.
This creates a one-sided atmosphere where people aren’t actually being educated by the media, but rather passing around ideals that already support a predetermined mindset.
Plus, when someone is attempting to back up their view with what they share, the question of whether someone is actually fact checking posts that align with their views is important to consider.
Using social media in an age where news and networking overlap so often means users must constantly be thinking. Media consumers, especially those getting news from sites like Facebook, must always remain aware and conscious of what they are reading and sharing.
It is easy to consume the short blurbs of information that pop up on Facebook, while actually reading takes time. That time just might be the deciding factor on whether or not someone is actually fully informed when they head to the polls this November, though.