Many U.S. adults now get news on social media, reflecting the upward trend of digital news being published on the web.
Journalism assistant professor Dustin Harp said there’s been a shift as to what is being shared on social media.
There used to be more sharing what they had for dinner, but now more are sharing news, Harp said.
Malavika Vidyarthi, computer science graduate student, said sometimes, on social media, unnecessary things become news, crowding platforms.
Harp said this new, greater exposure — perpetuated by online trends and the current political climate — does not necessarily mean an increase in news reading.
“We’re seeing a lot of headlines,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of pictures. We’re reading a lot of ledes.”
People do read some stories, but not necessarily as much as one might think, given what’s available, she said.
“I do think the effect of the social media and seeing the headlines, even if you aren’t clicking through, you are getting bit of an understanding of what’s going on in your world,” Harp said.
Shwetha Parmar, computer science graduate student, said overexposure to news does not exist, since it is always good to stay informed.
Harp said given how much information people are exposed to today, there is only so much one could read and consume, especially with how much information there is compared to the past. To give context, she referenced a quote from a New York Times article that said, “A copy of the daily New York Times contains more information than the average 17th-century Englishman encountered in a lifetime.”
She said the amount of news and information can often be overwhelming, alienate people from the news or even cause anxiety.
“There is a lot of volatility in our political environment right now,” Harp said. “When you’re seeing that information constantly, every time you open up Facebook or Twitter or turn on the television, you’re seeing a volatile political environment, which can be very stressful.”
She said not being able to escape the world’s stresses can cause stress for that individual.
“I think, in some ways, if you see too much, you start to feel like you can’t do anything about it, and then you are impotent to help,” Harp said. “So, you just want to check out.”
As previously reported by The Shorthorn, hyperexposure to news through social media, where one often selects what they want to see might lead to strong confirmation biases with some people that, in turn, can lead to their viewing of the world only through their eyes.
“On the positive, we are seeing political involvement from your average citizens at a high level right now,” Harp said. “We just saw the largest political protest in the modern history of the U.S. Through exposure and information and news about the Women’s March, it end up being the largest march ever in the country.”