Opinion: College students should consider the importance of media literacy
Students need to understand facts from fiction as they scroll through social media feeds
Photo by Niko Vu
| The state press
“With all the news that students consume on social media, they have to beware of misinformation.” Illustration published on Thursday, January 21, 2021.
By Lynette Hrabik | 01/21/2021 7:13 PM
Social media is a great medium for connecting with others and accessing a variety of perspectives from different people. However, issues such as the spread of false information and increasing polarization on social media are issues with which we are all too familiar.
Some studies show that social media users are more likely to believe fake news. Given that people between 18 and 29 are increasingly reliant on social media to receive messages compared to other age groups, it is important that we understand how to address these issues.
One solution is to improve our media literacy.
When we know how social media companies use their algorithms to disseminate information, we can see what steps we need to take to counter this.
Kristy Roschke is the managing director of the News Co / Lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and teaches courses on digital media literacy at the ASU. Roschke said it is important to know how and when we use social media, as social media companies can influence the information we see on our feeds and it is not always presented in chronological order.
For example, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are all engineered with algorithms that promote high engagement content. The platforms pick up which content generates the most reactions and encourage more of it. With these algorithms, it’s not difficult to see how rumors and insightful information can spread quickly.
Having this awareness is important. “The more we understand how we see the information we need,” said Roschke, “the more we can assert ourselves to find different types of information.”
We should not only recognize how misinformation spreads, but also how social media can promote polarization. It’s easy to find ourselves in epistemic bubbles in which opposing beliefs are ruled out, or in echo chambers in which opposing information is invalidated.
Roschke mentioned that people naturally connect with groups they identify with, and connecting with others is a positive aspect of social media.
“The downside of this, of course, is that we choose all the information we see ourselves, so that we only see that reinforce existing beliefs and we don’t see any other opinions or perspectives on a topic – that’s where you get stuck in a self-made echo chamber can, ”said Roschke.
Social media algorithms can amplify echo chambers or epistemic bubbles. Roschke mentioned that if these algorithms know information about you, such as your political affiliation, they will promote more of that content. For example, she cited Youtube as an example and said, in order to keep users’ attention, “researchers have found that they offer even more extreme versions of this content.”
“So the danger is that you only see the same types of information and the same sources, which doesn’t really give you a broader view of the world and makes it more difficult for us to empathize with people whose views differ from ours” , she said.
Once we consider that social media can often be a center of misinformation and easily a place where polarization – and sometimes extremism – is intensified, we can acknowledge different solutions. There is an ongoing discussion about how we should hold media companies accountable and that is important. We should also consider steps we can take to increase our awareness and avoid the current issues we are experiencing with social media.
Roschke recommends that people get their news from credible sources. She usually encourages her students to “do an audit of the people and organizations and the types of information they track on social media, and if those entities are less credible then it is probably time to do a ‘spring clean’ to be carried out “.
Another recommendation from Roschke is that when we come across information online that provokes an emotional response and when we’re not sure whether it’s true or not, verifying the information can be as easy as a quick Google search.
For example, Roschke said if you come across an article about the riots in the U.S. Capitol and see some information that makes you think, “I haven’t heard that particular part of the story, it might seem kind of suspicious to me,” she can Googling the quote, headline or information and see if it is covered by other outlets.
“It takes 10 or 15 seconds for you to say, ‘Oh, wow, that’s part of this story’ – because it’s not just about my local newspaper, but also from CNN or the Times or AP – so it doesn’t take long to check things out that way. “
Roschke emphasized that it can be impractical to do this with every piece of information that you come across, when topics are important to us or arouse emotions, “you want to pause for a moment, check it – in any case before you share it. ” with someone. “Reluctance is a good practice to stop the spread of false information through our own actions.
Another important point that Roschke emphasizes is that media literacy is not a set of skills that one learns only to suddenly become media literate – it is ongoing. “It’s really about practicing this healthy way of using media – as I just described – and you have to do it your entire life because the way media is created and distributed is going to change during our time Multiple changes in service life. “
Social media is an important mode of receiving and sharing information, and when used properly, it’s a great way to access a wide variety of viewpoints and narratives that mainstream media may not cover. It can help provide a platform for people who want to exercise their freedom of expression and participate in important dialogues. Even many who don’t have enough time to read entire news articles each day may rely on social media because it makes it easier for them to digest information about current events. Using social media isn’t the real problem – it’s spreading false information.
It is important to have media literacy in order to distinguish fact from fiction online, to be aware of how algorithms promote and recognize certain content how important it is to rely on reputable sources.
Reach out to the columnist at email@example.com or follow @lynetehrabik on Twitter.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by The State Press or its editors. Kristy Roschke is also a member of the student media council that oversees The State Press.
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