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World Disaster Media

The social media boom in recent years has completely changed the way we read and share news. Rather than waiting for the morning paper or that evening’s television broadcast, we’re aware of the latest global affairs within minutes of their announcement, sometimes even as soon as authorities become involved. In 2012, 36% of adults in the UK surveyed said that they regularly relied on social media for news updates (BBC), and as the number of people on twitter and Facebook increases, as does this statistic.

But in a society where we are constantly connected to the rest of the world, are we desensitised to disaster? Often it seems that we’re completely caught up in the latest news affair, then have forgotten all about it within a few weeks. Whereas on print or television media, tragic stories are gone into in depth and detail. Regardless of how much of this is for dramatic effect or to create a reaction, the reality that thousands of us scroll through short descriptions of tragedies without any real thought of what’s happened is concerning.

Another issue is the reliability of sources. It seems every other day there’s a new celebrity dead or a political scandal. I’ve seen hash tags killing off Robert Downey Jr. countless times. Anyone has the power to create and spread “news” across social media domains, and this questions the accuracy of what’s being fed to us. Even when it comes to real events, the statistics and details can be altered and exaggerated.

Having said that, there are some benefits to using social media as a news source. Rather than following one particular newspaper, social media news comes at you from a variety of different sources so you can avoid issues such as bias information. We are allowed to possess your own opinions that are shaped through the variety of ways information is presented to us. Additionally, people who might not necessarily be interested in current affairs are made aware of important issues through their display on social media; news is now easily available to a far wider demographic.

Overall, positive or negative the influence social media has had on the spread of news in recent years is undeniable. It asks questions about the future of news; in a few years will it have overtaken print and television as the most widely used source? Given the statistics, this doesn’t seem that far off at all. 

4th year Sociology & International Relations student/ HC chapter editor at the University of Aberdeen. Sharing my thoughts on life, current affairs, media and occasionally baking.
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