Facebook: Changing the Way We Get News

Thursday! The day almost ever senior looks forward to since it starts most of their weekends, and I am no exception. I wake up, roll over, grab my phone to see what updates happened overnight, and I notice a particularly shocking picture (posted below). My friend I met on exchange got engaged, and I had no idea he was even in a relationship!

Image

I was stunned not the fact that he got engaged and had not told me, but by the fact that I hadn’t heard even hints of this event earlier on social media. While our grandparents may infrequently call their acquaintances far away to only hear big about their friends’ best memories in the past three months, our generation has become ever more interested in staying up to date with all their friends on a daily basis. It has come to a point where we want to remain in constant contact with all of our friends even though we may be separated by a 24-hour flight from Boston, USA to Lahore, Pakistan.

While other Boston College students befriend other BC students in their study abroad destinations, I can say I befriended a grand total of five Americans while I studying in Copenhagen. The rest of my friends came from all corners of the world including Vilnius, Jakarta, Perth, Vancouver, and Chengdu just to name a few cities. Facebook provides a platform for me to communicate with these friends on a daily-basis and inform them of events in my daily life. To my grandmother, it may seem strange that seven of my friends and I sit in five time zones on four continents having casual conversations, but our generation has grown to find this sort of activity normal. This past summer, these friends often listened to my daily rants about my two-hour commute 5 miles (8 km) down Boston’s antiquated T. I would also share important life news with these friends, and they were even the first friends to congratulate me on securing a full-time offer after I finished my internship. We no longer feel the need to have a physical presence to share tidbits of information to our closest friends in our social networks.

With broadened social networks, we can share more than bits of our daily lives. We now inform others, wherever they may be, of influential societal changes happening in our home countries. Previously, I used to rely solely on traditional news outlets to learn about events happening around the world. Relying on these outlets provides me with an understanding of events shaping nations around the world. However, the American or British bias in our media doesn’t allow us to view the situation objectively. The larger flaw is these news services’ lack of the human element that lets us focus on the people living in one particular society and allows us to understand events shaping their lives. Traditional news outlets’ top-down look at events gives us a broad overview but hinders our abilities to critically view the information given to us.

Image

Social media allows us to share these moments and our perspectives to friends around the world. When the most recent protests started in Istanbul, it was not the news that taught me most about the police brutality or the government’s attempt to censor Turkish citizens. I learned most from information my Turkish friends had posted on Facebook informing the world about the events, and the daily actions students took to fight for their cause. It would be nearly impossible to hear of these first hand experiences or other small actions taken by the people to support a cause from traditional news sources. From social media, I have begun to gain a new perspective and understanding of the Turkish citizen’s situation.

At the same time, Facebook allows me to educate myself on topics unaddressed by many news outlets. If it weren’t for my Pakistani friends, I would have been ignorant of their country’s 2013 elections. I found it most shocking to learn of my friends’ strong allegiance and following of Imran Khan, the candidate for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party. Though I knew my friends came from the more liberal city of Lahore, I read about the views Khan supported for Pakistan and was surprised to learn his stances on many issues. Western media did not focus on how Khan was looking to shape a new, modern model for an Islamic democratic welfare state in Pakistan. Instead, I relied on information my friends posted to learn more about the subject. With every post, I also learned the PTI gained strong support through social media with growing support from social media networks. During the campaign season, my friends posted videos of rallies in support of the PTI and offered to reach out to help elect Khan to office. One day I even noticed my friend posted a messaged that he would be distributing PTI flags across Lahore to anyone who wanted to join and spread Khan’s message. These everyday actions posted on Facebook taught me of a changing world that I would have otherwise remained ignorant to if I had not held these connections.

Image

Social media’s beauty lies in the ability to share any type of information with anyone we wish to hear our cause. This allows social networks to be better educated and learn of situations from the bottom up instead of seeing issues from a narrow perspective portrayed from above. In this ever-shrinking world, we should embrace these opportunities and share all sorts of information to better educate our social spheres.

7 comments

  1. Very cool, Rob! I couldn’t agree more that social media is increasingly becoming a source of news in our world today and that it offers a different (maybe even more accurate) perspective of events. I also was on exchange and met a student from Iran who, in high school, protested the government for women’s rights. He actually was arrested, tortured, and told never to return back to Iran, so he’s been living in Vienna attending school since. Like you, the things I learn from his Facebook and Twitter accounts I’d never be able to learn from our traditional news outlets. I’ll forever be grateful for my experiences abroad and how much more of a worldly person it has made me.

  2. I, for sure, use social media as an outlet for news. Our generation in particular is time-starved, especially in college, so I definitely agree that most of us are relying on our facebook friendships and twitter feeds to get the information we need. One of the most satisfying feelings for me on twitter is when I tweet out something before a major news source, because I have a friend that is in the location where the event is happening. Social media has allowed us to stay up to date in real time. I agree with both you and Taylor in that the study abroad experience was invaluable to extending our networks abroad! Great post, Rob!

  3. Rob-

    I like how you talk about social media in terms of cross-cultural understanding, because there is often much negative talk about social media, but I agree with you that this is a very positive aspect of social media.
    My mom always used to hound me for being on Facebook, until recently when she went on a book tour in England and when she came back she asked me to help her make a Facebook account so that she can keep in touch with the friends she made overseas.

    I laughed because I, too, use Facebook to stay in touch with people I met on my semester abroad, and now she wanted to use it for the same purpose when previously she didn’t understand the purpose of Facebook.
    It goes to show that social media really is a useful tool for keeping in touch with friends around the world, and also creates means for better cross-cultural understanding.

  4. Rob, this is a really interesting post! First, I hope you write more about your abroad experiences in the future – it sounds like your time abroad was really unique. Second, I never really realized how biased our news reporting can be. Sure, I know that some stations and sources are more liberal or conservative than others and some have a bad reputation of publishing incorrect news, but I never thought much about other countries view the same events – I always took for granted that facts are facts and that’s what the media reports. However, I loved reading about your friends’ experiences and how we can gain so much from reading the news updates from other cultures.

    When I studied about in France, my family was asking about the French people’s perception of Obama since it was during the election. I made sure to mail home a copy of the newspaper on the day that he won the election, but this posed another problem. The language barrier (though sometimes helped by Google translate) can be really difficulty and I think at times this impedes our understanding. Still, this is another reason why studying abroad is so great – we make these friends from across the world and we better understand the world beyond ourselves. Great post!

  5. Rob, I really enjoyed this post! I definitely agree that my first source of news and current events is on social media. I think it is very interesting how you have so many international friends that you can stay up to date with these events via their posts on Facebook. I have found that for my personal use, I tend to use twitter to stay up to date on news by following accounts such as CNN and The Boston Globe and use Facebook to stay up to date on the events in the lives of my friends and family which are usually not headline news. But in your case it is so interesting that you are able to learn so much about these other cultures by your friends from abroad and their posts on Facebook. Not only does this keep you updated on international news but you are receiving it from more of a primary source that what I am reading through CNN’s tweets.

    I think it is fascinating how Facebook is able to offer a way to “mend the gap” that exists between different cultures and enable close communication by providing the ability to stay up to date on our friends daily lives, whether it is someone else at BC and they are posting about having too many exams or a friend in California and their daily activities to a friend halfway across the world and see them posting about their daily activities which to us is reported through the news. I really enjoyed your post and find it so interesting how much you learn by having international friends and engaging with them on Facebook!

  6. I also use social media for the vast majority of my news. It has evolved to a point where unless you are watching the news on TV very often, you are getting your news on social media. I think people on Facebook want to be the first to post the groundbreaking news for the likes and comments they receive, so I feel like I find out about every big story moments after it happens. I also agree with you about the situation in Turkey, where social media provided a completely different story than what we got on the news. I saw on the news where they said no chemical weapons were being used, but Turkish people posted pictures of gas canisters that the police fired into crowds to make them disperse.

    I think I also took for granted how easy it is now to get news on friends who live far away. Our generation has lived with social media for so long that this just seems normal now, even though it is pretty amazing. Like you said, you can talk to people from all corners of the world at the same time instantly, which would have sounded like something out of science fiction to previous generations.

  7. Nice post! I suspect you are actually in the minority in using Facebook to expand your network, but I could be wrong. Regardless, very insightful reflection on the benefits of FB

%d bloggers like this: