Staff Editorial: Reliable Information on Social Media Vital to Society

Our Position: The value of social media to journalism is undeniable; however, with great access to information comes great responsibility. Consumers of news must be careful to only trust credible news sources.

In this day and age, articles railing against social media are completely obsolete. The benefits of a user-friendly communication network that spans the globe are so abundant and obvious that any argument in opposition to social media is laughably old-fashioned.

While it is virtually impossible to effectively bash social media for its value and practicality, it can at times fall short in credibility. Too often, citizens turn to platforms like Twitter and Facebook for their daily news fix. While the increasing prevalence of legitimate news platforms on social media makes it easier to find valid journalism online, this can sometimes result in people treating biased or otherwise compromised information with the same respect they would a release from CNN or BBC.

Getting the bulk of your news from half-baked retweets will result in gross misinformation, which does greater harm than most people know. Misinformation breeds ignorance, and the downfall of the accessibility of social media is that this ignorance spreads with deadly speed.

Think of how often gossip sites report “rumors” of celebrity pregnancies, divorces and deaths, and how often those rumors prove to be completely false. Yet it takes less than half an hour for Twitter to buzz with speculation over the fabricated news. If this is the kind of uproar that comes from small entertainment blips, imagine the disturbance an incorrectly reported major world incident would cause.

Social media creates the opportunity for a revolution in journalism. The speed with which information can travel both astounds and thrills us; the horizons of communication were vastly widened with the advent of social media, and the borders only expand with each innovation. The accessibility is not only heightened in a physical sense, but intellectually as well.

Social media is not currently restrained by the same boundaries, real or imagined, that surround more traditional news outlets. This unfiltered nature gives social media news a particular tone, an ethos created entirely by its relative newness that you don’t find in conventional print or online journalism. Most of the photographs from the conflict in Gaza came from amateur photographers and were widely circulated online. However, if “unfiltered” translates to “sloppy”, “biased”, and “misinformed”, social media news loses all of its integrity, and all of its potential.

Bloggers are quick to pounce on scraps of information, which they then blow up into huge editorial tantrums. This kind of shameless, incendiary click bait, if widely spread, can cause unnecessary anguish to countless parties. If the information that makes up the base of the argument is defective, the argument becomes dangerously defunct, because the abrasive argument potentially becomes slander, and the ignorance spreads like an illiterate disease.

Turning to Twitter for your news isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but know who it is you’re really turning to. There is nothing wrong with getting news through social media so long as the source is reputable. The problem arises when the person behind the Twitter account doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Technology shows no signs of slowing down in the future, and neither does the speed with which we are able to communicate. We must match this increased speed with even greater accuracy in what we report, and greater scrutiny concerning what we believe.