According to the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of American Adults now get their news via social media (mostly Facebook or Twitter, which is where you're probably reading this from). No, this is not an article screaming the death of newspapers or something similar.
Recently, I took an amazing trip to Japan, and while I was there, I studied Japanese news as much as I could without knowing any Japanese. But despite listening to NHK English podcast and reading Japan Times, I realized that in a way, I was cut off from the world. When the failed coup of Turkey's government happened, none of the students in my study abroad group had any idea that it even happened until our teacher told us the next morning.
Later, when talking to my Japanese lunch host, he commented that while he was in Great Britain, he realized that their news featured more stories from the world than Japan does. He commented that if one was to watch only Japanese TV news, you would get far less world wide news coverage than if you actively sought it out online.
Having thought about Japan's media bias towards their own country, I've been thinking lately about how Americans consume news in concern to politics. With access to thousands of "news" sources at hand and many of them coming to you via social media, its easy to fall prey to your own biases without even realizing it.
Lately, I've been seeing news articles shared on my Facebook feed but I rarely click on them unless its from a well-known source like the Washington Post, the Times, National Geographic, and so on, so forth. I get most of my news from Twitter where I often click on news from those sources. But on Facebook, I'm more likely to see my friends share news from lesser known news.
When I see these news articles, the main reason I don't click on them is because I'm afraid that these are sources that are mostly biased and that they are not reputable news sources. Most of these sources, if you look at them, you've never heard of before. And many, according to a New York Times article, doesn't exist outside of Facebook.
They have names like Occupy Democrats; The Angry Patriot; US Chronicle; Addicting Info; RightAlerts; Being Liberal; Opposing Views; Fed-Up Americans; American News; and hundreds more. Some of these pages have millions of followers; many have hundreds of thousands.
As a journalism student, I often stop to think about the quality of journalism I'm reading and how much I can trust the source. True journalism is supposed to be unbiased and as humans, this is hard to accomplish. Many news sites, we know do have some bias. FoxNews for example, is infamously conservative, while CNN is the opposite.
Granted, sites like the Washington Post and New York Times can be as biased as the sites found on Facebook, but seeing as their articles come from a well-known, trusted news organization, I'm much more likely to trust them over a site I've never heard of on Facebook, even if I agree with the content.
I'm afraid that these Facebook sites are fueling into our already set beliefs and that we are not doing enough to educate ourselves on the opposite point of view or even try to understand it.
So my hope for this election season is that we stop to think about what we're reading and what their biases might be and if what we're reading is really true or not. And to take the time to look into a different view point. I wish for an America that takes time to become educated voters and not people without educated opinions.