How I Interact with Social Media for News

Over the last week, there were three bits of news that I heard about and was interested in. While scrolling through my Instagram feed, more than one of the accounts I follow (some of which were internet celebrities, like Mamrie Hart, who has a following of nearly one million on Instagram) posted a picture with blue and pink stripes and the words “PROTECT TRANS KIDS”. Curious about what was provoking these posts, I went to Google and searched “trans rights”. At this point, I read bits and pieces from multiple sources, mostly Vox, and discovered that the Trump Administration revoked Obama’s guidance that would protect trans students enrolled in federally funded schools. I normally don’t consider Instagram to be a place where I get a whole lot of news, but now really thinking about it, I remember very similar posts in the past revolving gay rights, as well as photographs my friends have taken at rallies in Chicago for various causes over the past few years. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say I’ve thrown a “like” out to all of these posts if they were featured on my personal feed. I think there’s something powerful that comes with a platform that relies on images to send messages and doesn’t have space for lengthy opinion pieces; we get the message faster, and it sticks in our brain.

Early in the week I also found out about NASA’s latest big discovery: a “nearby” star with seven earth like planets in orbit around it. I found about this via Twitter: the source for nearly all the current news I find out about. One of the hundred and something users I follow retweeted an article about the finding. Before even reading the article, I found myself looking through other tweets on my timeline related to the planets. Mostly, memes about people hoping to get the hell off of this one. Then, I did what has recently become habitual for me. I went to the explore tab that features “moments”, basically a collection of tweets that perhaps were most popular, or best represent whatever issue they revolve (or orbit…) around. These constructed tweet compilations is a relatively new feature on Twitter, and something I love. When seeking out news, I want to be seeing multiple perspectives but without reading multiple lengthy articles are running back and forth between several sources. The twitter explore page is a quick way for me to get the basics that satisfy my thirst for knowledge and my ability to briefly discuss current events amongst peers, yet don’t leave me feeling overwhelmed with data and opinions.

The only news I actually sought out without it finding me first was the scoop behind the Oscars best picture mishap. As per usual, Twitter had my back with updates unfolding with every refresh after the awards show ended. I retweeted a clip of Emma Stone’s reaction, as it felt like my duty to share the gossip with my friends who were also live tweeting the show. The morning after, I checked in with Snapchat to see more red carpet drama covered. After coming to the conclusion that the mistake of announcing La La Land as best picture was genuinely a mistake, I actually un-retweeted some of the previous night’s updates, as they seemed to provoke more controversy than necessary. I realize now that this is one of the cons of the race for social media users and news sources to give the public answers: a lot of things are said before the big (and best…) picture comes into view.

I don’t turn to Facebook for news simply because I find a lot of the things posted by old high school friends to be in poor taste. Twitter is my go to, Snapchat fills in some of the cracks, and Instagram occasionally surprises me with themes of activism. I don’t expect everything I get from social media to be expertly researched and always reliable, but it keeps me informed about the basics. When discussing news with friends or family, I don’t get questioned about my sources because, honestly, I don’t think they usually care. I believe they value a reputable source, as do I, but it’s surprisingly not usually one of the first questions to come up if a good friend is the one relaying information.

Although I don’t feel overwhelmed while I use social media, really paying attention to how often I’m using it makes me feel as though taking breaks from my phone might be good for me. In this age, taking a break from my phone is now essentially equivalent to turning off the entire outside world.