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Shifting News Consumption Pattern in the Age of Social Media

illustration featuring 4 kids, two boys and two girls, with a blue background and the world's map imprinted on it

Our world is going through a quantum leap in terms of technology, and it has its impacts on multiple areas of our lives. 

The rise of the internet, leading to the growth of social media has transformed our lives in more ways than we can imagine.

This behavioral or generational change is more apparent when we look at the rapidly transforming landscape of the news media, how social media is affecting it, and how our generations are participating in that change, with or without knowing.

Younger Generations Are Turning To Social Media For News

That’s right, the younger generations, especially the millennials and Gen Z are gradually switching to social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, X, or Instagram to check for something important.

Gone are the days of traditional print media, the radio or newspapers, the younger generations these days use their smartphones for almost everything.

Smartphones are a key component that enables individuals to stay in touch with each other, play games, check feeds, watch movies, and whatnot.

A study conducted by Deloitte states that almost 65% of individuals aged between 18-24 and 63% of people aged between 25-34 years of age chose social media to be their primary source of news.

The Transition Did Not Happen Overnight

There is a notable shift that has taken place over the last couple of decades that has led to this point.

A report Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Edges Down by Gallup, found that only 41% of the American population preferred watching their news from traditional media sources in 2019 and believed them to be completely accurate, which was about 61% in 1972.

However, this was quite alarming since not even half the population was not following traditional media anymore.

The experts who conducted the study believed that traditional news organizations were being bombarded with political rhetoric, and that caused a major problem for people to believe them.

However, the statement is somewhat true for other countries as well. 

People are of the opinion that the majority of the news channels on television are affiliated and biased, and hence they cannot be trusted with their interpretation of the news.

However, this is only true for those who actually seek news, and the majority of Gen Z are not that interested.

Gen Z Was Born Into Social Media

Well, it would be wrong to say that Gen Z is not at all interested in the news.

But it is true that they have grown up in a digital environment when smartphones and social media were brewing up this crazy concoction we are in today.

A survey conducted in August 2022 found that almost 60% of Gen Z in the U.S. have never touched a newspaper.

These are people who were born between 1997 and 2012, and neither do they show any inclination to watch news on television or listen to the radio for news.

Amelia Gibson, a professor at North Carolina University mentioned that mistrust of the mainstream news media has turned people to gather first-hand reports from social media feeds.

She believes that people have this idea that they can get quicker and faster reports from their social media feeds, through some news channel, or probably their favorite influencers.

She also states that what they do not understand is that social media uses algorithms to keep feeding people what they want to see and in a way divides them across different worlds, and that can be dangerous.

Risks of Social Media Reporting

There are diverse opinions about social media being the prime source of news for anyone.

Most importantly, there is an inherent problem with social media as a news source, and the problem is that anyone can act as a reporter out there.

Largely because social media is exactly that. It stands for promoting free speech and mostly, it is a platform for content creators and consumers.

As a result, the credibility of the facts presented on social media often turns out to be questionable. 

These platforms and their algorithms favor the ones with the most amount of followers, which does not resonate well with the core principles of journalism.

There have been numerous cases of fake news, against celebrities, regular people, memes that shape or plant wrong ideas in our heads and there is an overload of opinions out there, which may derail someone from reality a long way off.

Social Media is Here To Stay

Given the regular habits of the younger generations of the world, it is unlikely that social media will disappear overnight.

On the contrary, it is getting more and more complicated as we speak. 

There is a deeper issue that has made it possible for social media platforms to be so dominant.

Gen Z, who are among the most avid users of social media, have largely seen and interacted with the world through social media only as they grew up.

They have formed a connection with some of the content creators and have developed a bond with them.

They really do believe in what these influencers have to say and not all of them are necessarily bad or something.

However, when that bond of trust is shattered for some reason, that creates a sense of mistrust and loneliness, and for the younger generation, that may not be a good thing.

There have been several instances where these things have happened.

Katy Perry was accused of murdering a nun on TikTok and if fans did not come out to support her on the platform by reporting on her daily activities, people would have believed that she actually did commit the murder.

Just a few months back in June, when the submersible vehicle with five people went missing, celebrity gossip channel Deuxmoi reported that all five of them were alive.

However, a couple of days later, the truth was disclosed that all five had died and the post was removed, millions of people followed that channel.

News Channels Are Studying Social Media Trends Closely

News organizations these days are trying to study the patterns adopted by social media influencers, take the Los Angeles Times or The Washington Post for example. 

While the former copied the method adopted by popular content creator V Spehar, who reports on news events on his TikTok channel, the latter became popular following Dave Jorgenson’s presentation of the news, which is not really mainstream at all.

Nowadays most of the major news corporations are already there on social media, trying to reach out to the millions of people who are active on it.

Millions of people rely on X (formerly Twitter) to get first-hand news reports and leaks there.

The Guardian has over 10 million followers on X, the Financial Times has more than 4 million and there are many others. 

Social media is a very powerful tool, connecting people across the world and making way for the entire creator economy.

However, a powerful tool can be a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands and thus it is extremely important to maintain proper regulation of social media so that the truth is not lost in translation.

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