Think about the last place you received word of a major news story. Were you on your phone scrolling through your Twitter feed? Looking at the day’s happenings on Facebook? Perhaps you even have an app for a major news network installed on your mobile device, and you didn’t have to do a thing to access the news update aside from opening a notification.
We live in an automatic world where the need to search is minimal, yet information is seemingly unlimited. This is due to the fact that, these days, everything is expected to be at top-speed–your computers, your cell phones, and with that, your ability to be connected to anyone or anything, at any time.
While this transformation to 24/7 updates over the past several years is undoubtedly representative of a supply-and-demand for bigger, faster and stronger products, it’s not necessarily a beneficial one when it comes to producing and receiving information in the most accurate way possible.
In the past two decades, society has gone from having to pick up a morning newspaper or sit down to watch an evening newscast, to having to search for specific topics on the internet when desired, to now merely having to log in to their favorite social media site to receive a plethora of potential news to be explored.
According to a Feb. 12 article in The Atlantic about the effect of social media on news, two years ago, Google and Facebook were virtually equivalent in the number of viewers each sent to the BuzzFeed network’s sites. In the past year, however, this number has changed drastically–Facebook now directs 3.5 times more traffic to the site than Google.
It doesn’t just apply to Facebook, though. According to an article published by Digital Trends on Nov. 15, 2013, about half of twitter users get news from that social media site, as well as one in five YouTube users. While this trend of access from social media is great in terms of potentially informing more people, it’s important to remember the ways in which we consume this information.
One of the biggest perks of social media is its brevity. People enjoy Twitter because it’s nearly impossible to get long-winded; what someone has to say is more or less confined to 140 characters. However, because of this need for conciseness, people are inevitably expecting everything they need to know to fit within a mere sentence. A Feb. 14 article by the Verge claims that people are more likely to share an article after reading only 25 percent of its content than users who left before that or spent more time on it. This means they’ve likely only read the headline and merely skimmed the rest. This is potentially problematic, as it lends to the idea that people are basing their understanding of an 800- to 1,000-word article on what they’ve gathered from a 15- to 20-word Tweet.
Because these posts tend to be short in length, it also allows reporters and networks to litter newsfeeds with information every few minutes. Aside from the fact that there’s likely not enough breaking news that actually matters to most people to constitute an update 12 times every hour, it also changes the buzz surrounding these events. While some argue it lessens the impact of hard-hitting news, I’d make a stand for the opposite. When the same story is popping up on Facebook dozens of times, it’s easy to believe the topic at hand is more serious than it may actually be. While news is undoubtedly important, the frequency of which we involuntarily see or hear about happenings can alter our perception of the urgency and risk level attached to them. In other words, if an idea or topic is constantly catching your attention (regardless of how important it is), you’re probably more likely to believe it to have farther-reaching effects than it actually does.
In the end, it’s a matter of quality over quantity. While we’ve created the 24-hour news cycle through our own demands, it’s important for reporters and consumers alike to realize the value of consistent, significant information instead of a constant, minimal drip from news networks. If we trade non-stop updates for less frequent, but more fulfilling material, society will undoubtedly find a renewed appreciation and value for news.