Opinion: College students should consider the importance of media literacy
Social media is a great way to connect with others and access a wide range of viewpoints from different people. However, issues such as the spread of misinformation and increased polarization on social media are issues we know all too well.
Some studies show that social media users are more likely to believe fake news. As 18-29 year olds increasingly rely on social media for information compared to other age groups, it is important that we understand how to address these issues.
One solution is to improve our media literacy.
Being aware of how social media companies use their algorithms to deliver information can help us recognize the steps we need to take to counter them.
Kristy Roschke is Executive Director of the News Co/Lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and teaches courses at ASU on digital media education. Roschke said it’s important to know how and when we use social media because social media companies can influence the information we see on our feeds and it’s not always presented in chronological order.
For example, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are all designed with algorithms that promote content with high engagement. Platforms grab content that gets the most reactions and promote it. With these algorithms, it’s not hard to see how rumors and suggestive information can spread quickly.
Having this awareness is important. “The more we understand how we see the information we need,” Roschke said, “the more assertive we can be to find different types of information.”
In addition to recognizing how misinformation spreads, we need to recognize how social media can fuel polarization. It is easy to find yourself in epistemic bubbles where opposing beliefs are excluded or echo chambers where opposing information is invalidated.
Roschke mentioned that people naturally align with groups they identify with and that connecting with others is a positive aspect of social media.
“The flip side, of course, is that we ourselves select all the information we see, so that we only see reinforcing existing beliefs and we don’t see other opinions and other perspectives on one question – this is where you can kind of get stuck in an echo chamber of your own making,” Roschke said.
Social media algorithms can reinforce echo chambers or epistemic bubbles. Roschke mentioned that when these algorithms know information about you, like your political affiliation, they will promote more of that content. For example, she cited Youtube as an example and said that to keep users engaged, “researchers have found they will serve even more extreme versions of this content.”
“So the danger is that you end up just seeing the same kinds of information and the same sources, which doesn’t really give you a broader view of the world, and that makes it more difficult for us to sympathize with people whose views are different from ours,” she said.
Once we consider how social media can often be a hub of misinformation and easily be a place where polarization – and sometimes extremism – is reinforced, we can recognize different solutions. There’s an ongoing discussion about different ways we should hold media companies accountable, and that’s important. We should also consider steps we can take to increase our awareness and avoid the current issues we are having with social media.
Roschke recommends people get their news from credible sources. She generally encourages her students to “do an audit of the people and organizations and types of information they follow on social media and if those entities are less credible, it’s probably time to do some ‘spring cleaning'” .
Another recommendation from Roschke is that when we come across information online that elicits an emotional reaction and if we are unsure whether it is true or not, verifying the information can be as simple as a quick Google search.
For example, Roschke said that if you come across an article about the riots in the United States Capitol and see information that makes you think “I haven’t heard that particular part of the story, that might sound suspicious”, you can Google the quote, title or information and see if it is covered by other outlets.
“It’ll take you 10 or 15 seconds to say ‘Oh, wow, I guess that’s part of this story’ – because not only does my local paper cover it, it’s also covered by CNN or the Times or AP – so it doesn’t take much time to check things out this way.
Roschke pointed out that, since it may be impossible to do this for every piece of information one encounters, when topics are important to us or evoke emotions, “that’s where you want to stop for a second. , check it out – definitely before you share it with anyone.” Showing restraint is a good practice to stop the spread of false information of our own making.
Another important point Roschke makes is that media literacy isn’t a set of skills you learn to suddenly become media literate – it’s lifelong. “It’s really about practicing these healthy ways of using media – as I just described – and you have to do them all the time throughout your life because the way media is created and distributed will change many times over our lifetime.
Social media is an important mode for obtaining and sharing information, and when used correctly is a great way to access a variety of viewpoints and stories that may not be covered by the media. General public. It can help give a platform to people who want to exercise their freedom of expression and engage in meaningful dialogue. Additionally, many who don’t have enough time to read entire news articles every day can rely on social media as it can be an easier way to digest information about current events. The use of social media is not the inherent problem, it is the spreading of false information.
What’s important is having media literacy skills to distinguish fact from fiction online, become aware of how algorithms promote specific content, and recognize the importance of relying on reliable sources.
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are those of the author and do not imply any endorsement by The State Press or its editors. Kristy Roschke also sits on the student media advisory board that oversees the state press.
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