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Four Years at the Mount

Junior year

Supplemental social media

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

I wake up, get dressed, brush my teeth, and walk out into my living room. I sit on the couch, find the remote under a stack of newspapers, turn on the news and listen as I make a cup of coffee. I sit back down and spend the next 27 minutes catching up on the last twelve hours of happenings around the world. I go to classes and at lunchtime I open the local daily newspaper to supplement my pasta with more stories, articles, and editorials. I attend all my meetings, workout, and by 6 p.m. Iím back watching the news before sitting down to do homeworkĖ again absorbing twelve hours of information.

Okay, most of that was a lie. In reality, if I wake up before my alarm, I pick up my phone and scroll through Facebook or Instagram first. If something catches my eye, I then go to google and type in something resembling the headline to find more. I get out of bed, brush my teeth, and walk out of my room, walking right past the television every time. I close the door behind me and by the time I get to the stairs Iíve probably started to scroll through snapchat. Once I step outside of my dorm building, Iím less preoccupied by my phone, only checking it occasionally throughout the day, until I attend all my classes, make it through my to-do list, and am back in my room for the night. Once I lay down in my bed, I head back to Facebook, spending at least 20 minutes switching between social media sites on my phone, reading up on the day, catching up on what happened in the social media world while I existed in the real world. Once I put my phone down and set my alarm, if I canít sleep I probably check it a few more times before actually falling asleep.

Though the minutes I have spent on social media are spread throughout the day, I have probably opened more articles than I would have while reading a newspaper. I also probably found more stories and opinions than I would have watching TV for an hour, but I donít know if the quantity found on social media is worth the quality or lack thereof. On those days that I donít stop to watch the news, I miss clips, stories, and ideas that havenít been through the filter of friendsí opinions, offensive comments, thousands of shares, and havenít been subjected to what my friends deem is important enough to share. This is, in my mind, the single greatest issue to educating oneself on global news via social media Ė this filter.

I have almost no control over the filter of my own news; sure I can choose to click on some articles and not on others, but with social media as a primary news source, I am at the mercy of my "friends."

If my aunt chooses to switch her support from Ted Cruz to another presidential candidate, Iíd lose probably 50% of my immediate access to articles, photos, and videos of Cruz. If my friends lost their investment in the environment, I can almost guarantee I would never see another article about pollution in the Chesapeake Bay again. Without the news, newspapers, and free searching of the internet, my timeline becomes my reality.

This filter has even deeper consequences when it concerns an issue with more than one side. If my timeline is bombarded with anti-Clinton propaganda shared under a status expressing how horrible she is, my mind is already ready to hear what she did or said wrong before even letting the article load. Because social media lends to personal opinions so overwhelmingly, this is a major problem. Now, not only are the articles filtered by friendsí interests and beliefs, but they are prefaced with opinions.

If every person on social media shared posts prefacing them with "This is important, regardless of my opinion" or anything of the sort, maybe my timeline wouldnít seem so biased. If each person were to share links and articles of all sorts and categories regardless of what peaks their interest, maybe my timeline wouldnít have such gaps. Fortunately for our own freedom of expression, but unfortunately for my news intake, neither of these are realities.

With all of this information, I still donít know the answer. Social media is convenient, easy to maneuver, and gives each person scrolling through a valid starting point for their own news search. However, the filter of each personís timeline and the black-hole like nature of Facebook limits the pros of the media site and leads more to the mindless scrolling I do while lying in bed or waiting for class to begin.

Yet still, I donít know the solution. The benefits of social media persuade me to keep it, but the news I end up missing and misreading lend to the opposite cause. For now, Iím in search of a happy medium. Iíll probably still look to Instagram and Facebook when I wake up to find out what has been happening in the world, but only as a supplement to my own news search and time spent reading and watching the news. As a supplement, I donít see an issue with social media as a news source, but because of the biased and opinionated filters, it cannot stand alone.

If social media starts to stand alone, our timelines will overwhelm our minds and our own thoughts about the world will be influenced solely by the opinions of our friends. This thought is not only prevalent, but it is also incredibly frightening to think about. Our lives on social media should represent us, but should in no way influence our real lives. Similar to every single aspect of social media, using it as a news source should be done sparingly and wisely. I have, admittedly, fallen into the pit that is my Facebook page, but the overwhelming biases and gaps in information continue to direct me back to the real world.

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