The news climate around us: Is social media benefiting our news consumption?
Upon completing the first weeks of school, we are diving headfirst into the rhythm of college life. The relaxation of summer days is long gone, even though we are still suffering from the heat wave.
As college students, our days are occupied by reading after reading, whether it is a novel for a literature class or a chunk of an economics textbook. It seems as if our attention is completely occupied by these academic texts.
We prepare ourselves for class by analyzing and annotating these texts. Ultimately, most of the “deep thinking” or “insightful thoughts” we have are for the purpose of a good grade. Social media seems to be the solution — a relief from an intense academic environment.
However, nowadays we are constantly bombarded by news on social media too. Most of us follow some major news outlet, whether it is The New York Times, the Washington Post, or The Economist. This morning, my top story was one from The Economist. I clicked through each story without remembering even the headlines of the news article and went on to my morning routine.
I convinced myself that with a few taps on my phone, I was getting myself acquainted with the news around me. I was staying relevant. In reality, I retained none of the information I had just viewed.
This is exactly the problem that major news organizations struggle with. News platforms nowadays struggle to reach and find engagement in the younger population. As students who depend on electronic material, we barely engage with physical copies of newspapers, much less have daily newspaper subscriptions delivered to our dorms.
In today’s world, we have a limited amount of time and a seemingly endless number of social media platforms vying for our attention. Whether it is TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, our attention is divided. While it may appear that we are actively engaged with news online, it can quickly become overwhelming and lead to fatigue and less engagement over time. Retaining information becomes difficult, as it is impossible to give our full attention to each platform.
So how do we move forward from this? Is there still value to the news?
We live in an era that celebrates the grind and thrives on fast-paced lifestyles and instant gratification over taking the time to focus on what truly matters.
If we are not scrolling through Instagram posts for the latest buzz, then we are scrolling endlessly on TikTok for the next recommended video. We feel as if we are fed the information around us and lose the ability to choose. However, we have the agency to control the information we receive and choose the material to engage with.
There is always the notion that more is better, but with news, it is often the opposite. Engaging with less is much more beneficial than grappling with too much.
Pick one or two news outlets to engage with or, it can be a single identity for instance a journalist you identify with. By doing so, we become more intentional with our time and actions, and it will ultimately lead to a more fulfilling news experience.
As a student during the COVID-19 pandemic, I was tired of reading news that seemed like a repetitive cycle of a past I wanted to leave behind. I wanted something that seemed more bite-sized with more positive and uplifting messages.
I discovered the Modern Love column in The New York Times. Modern Love is a weekly updated segment that features reader-submitted love stories of 100 words, called “Tiny Love Stories”. These tiny love stories became a highlight of mine each week after I subscribed to the newsletter.
Modern Love is definitely not a traditional news source, but it is something I got in the habit of reading. It is important that the news we choose to read is interesting to us and not just what is in the mainstream discourse. Even if you have a niche interest, there is something in the news that could be valuable to you. Here are some of my tips for starting points:
Major news platforms now have highlight sections on their Instagram accounts that offer news on specific topic-oriented material. If you are not sure what to read, perhaps go to the Instagram main page of a news source and find something of interest to you.
After you’ve found something interesting, you may consider subscribing to the newsletter. Subscribing to a newsletter can help you build a routine and long-term sustainable habit to read news.
Regardless of what you choose to read, the focus of news consumption should not be only conforming to mainstream material. Healthy media consumption starts from following your own interests.