Modern Day Media: Americans Desensitized

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. The list goes on for sources of social media. Social networking has become the face of resourceful news. Something so accessible can raise some of the most divisive cultural questions of our time.

It is our job as journalists, to look beyond the message and think about the underlying factors of information. The use of media has further desensitized the massive population who use social media as their convenient source of news. We are living in a time extra sensitive to being politically correct.

Looking at the 2016 presidential election, it is obvious we are living in a divided country of people who are tired of being politically correct and people who are tired of feeling like they are not properly treated due to race and other gender issues.

Movements like Black Lives Matter have gained massive popularity and steam through the spread of social media. These types of movements are looking for more sensitization in the media and by default, in everyday life. These people want politicians and public officials to be more politically correct and give everyone equal opportunities.

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 represents the other half of the United States, the portion that is fed up with political correctness and believed Donald Trump answered to nobody but himself and his true feelings. Senator Bernie Sanders states in an interview on MSNBC “Trump said he will not be politically correct. I think he said some outrageous and painful things, but I think people are tired of the same old politically correct rhetoric.”

Social Media outlets allow content to become viral easily. With the virality of content, it is common for social media users to not look further into information. It is easier to form an opinion off of a viral piece of information than it is to dig deeper into the sources and fact check yourself. Quick grab and go news has become surface level.

In December of 2013, Justine Sacco, former communications director of New York-based internet IAC and a PR consultant, flew home to her hometown in South Africa for the holidays. During that trip, Sacco took the initiative to tweet: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just Kidding. I’m white!” With only 170 followers, Justine woke up from that eleven hour flight, jobless and globally hated with the help of bloggers.

In defense of her statement, Justine claims that she was poking fun at America being secluded in their own bubble, aside from the actual current epidemic. Social media — what started out as a platform for expressing personal details of one’s life, turned into a motivational push for online mob shaming.

In an excerpt from The Digital Divide — Learning to think in a Digital World, Maryanne Wolf states, “Will they become so accustomed to immediate access to escalating on-screen information that they will fail to probe beyond the information given to the deeper layers of insight, imagination, and knowledge?…”

The mistake of Justine Sacco’s joke was used as a form of social currency in which fueled the fire for a media frenzy. The social issue was beyond Justine. The issue itself held Justine as the figure and monster of such an outrageous remark. As stated by the blogger from Gawker Media who started the cruel hashtag “#HasJustineLandedYet”, openly admits, “It’s easy and thrilling to hate a stranger online.”

Social media has become the virtual landscape for those to publicize information and others to quickly respond. Sabin Muzaffer, author of article Social Media: Desensitizing the human spirit? States,

Where once there was a debate about violent forms of ‘entertainment’ in different sections of media — television, the big screen as well as the gaming arena, social media is the new, threateningly more potent medium exuding a potential of unbridled power that can wreak havoc on many levels.

The amount of impact media has on society is controlling, repressive and influential.

Facebook, being a means of connections and sharing with others, promised pertinent and reputable news sources, not just fringe bloggers. Sage Rosan, who studied broadcast journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, states, “On Facebook you share an article to their wall or your wall and is followed by three aggregated articles. American readers don’t really care what they’re reading, they were just interested to read.” He goes on to further explain that in Manchester, UK news The Guardian, is one of those most reputable news sources.

Facebook electronically gathers news as Rosan states, “[there’s] no engineer at the wheel.” During the time up before the elections, Facebook fired some of the reputable news sources as a means for on demand news. “It was all very directed,” in reference to the political ads and news. “They [Americans] turned a blind eye to the news that they hated.”

We must allow ourselves to change the constant exposure of our normal news. For future, we should stop, absorb and analyze the sources of information and consider the agendas behind them.

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