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Social media shouldn't be our primary way of engaging with current events – Queen's Journal

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In 2020, 90 per cent of American millennials got their news from popular social media platforms.        

Looking at our habits of news consumption, the last piece of news most of us read or heard would have been on Instagram or Twitter. 

While social media is great for getting young people invested in current events and spreading awareness on current issues, we need to veer away from using it as our primary news source and avenue for engaging with current events.

The advent of social media has given increased opportunities for non-reputable voices to be heard in the media. This has led to the doubling of “fake news”—where misinformation is spread to influence public opinion and obscure the truth—on social media between 2019 and 2020.

The spread of fake news over social media has been particularly detrimental during the pandemic, deterring social media users from being able to access important information about COVID-19.

For example, in comment sections on stories addressing COVID-19 where lies about public health are spread or threats are directed at public health officials like Anthony Fauci, more attention is brought to harassers themselves and less to the content of the stories.

Our favourite social media platforms also create larger divisions in opinions about current events and politics than I’ve ever seen before. Many of us are guilty of forming our opinions based on what our favourite celebrities or loved ones post to their Instagram story.

While it’s acceptable to take the opinions of others into consideration when forming our own views, it’s vital we also formulate our beliefs based on verified facts and statistics.

Using social media as a primary means to engage with current events can also be misguiding and deter us from meaningfully engaging with news stories.

An example we see on a regular basis is misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, which is amplified easily through social media.

Over the past year, misinformation ranging from COVID-19 vaccines containing microchipscausing autism, and not providing the same immunity to the virus than the immunity one has after contracting the virus itself have run rampant in comment sections.

All of these myths have been disproven by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Studies show lies spread six times faster than truth does on Twitter.  When we see something on Twitter or Instagram that we think is new and novel information, it’s a habit for some of us to retweet or repost, because we believe we’re in the know.

When this is paired with false information being spread by public figures like Donald Trump, people start to buy into them. That’s when harm is done.

Author Licia Corbella writes in the Calgary Herald that “every person who blindly believes lies and doesn’t verify facts before sending them out via various social media platforms is guilty of damaging our democracy.” She continues on to call Trump the “Spreader-in-Chief.”

When opinions are formed based on misinformation, we see these voices get taken out of context time and time again. We need to read the facts before forming our opinions and educate ourselves before reposting.

While I don’t think it’s a requirement to become an expert on every current event going on, it’s important we encourage each other to educate ourselves before reposting anything on our stories.

It’s worth being mindful of how we consume our news media and changing our focus from what others are doing on Facebook and Instagram to current issues that affect our world through reputable news sources.

The digital age has allowed for many legitimate news sources to appear directly at our fingertips. 

Listen to a news-based podcast, pick up a newspaper, or watch a newscast. Though it’s tempting to repost news stories that catch our eye in our newsfeed, it’s critical we spend the time to get informed before promoting further discourse.

While I previously used Instagram to get my news, I’ve since turned to news outlets like CNN and CBC to keep up with current events.

Beth Dennis is a second year Health Studies student. 

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Cheeky social media posts from City of Prince George resonate with residents – CBC.ca

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After experiencing a record snowfall earlier this January, the city of Prince George shared an important message with its residents through one of its social media channels: 

“It’s not our fault.”

As complaints came in to city hall about mounds of powder making it difficult to drive, the city’s official social media manager explained the situation with a tongue-in-cheek tone on Facebook, writing, “We would throw it back up in the sky if we could but this is not a municipal service we offer at this time.”

The post went on to explain the services the city does offer, including clearing the end of driveways, and shared safety tips on navigating the snowy streets. 

Residents responded with more than a thousand reactions and shares, primarily positive, with some praising the post’s humorous take and conversational messaging.

And many have wondered who’s behind the more light-hearted messages they’ve been seeing from the city recently.

The answer is a four-person communications team that’s taking a new approach to engaging Prince George residents.

Julie Rogers, the city’s new communications manager hired in October, says a municipal government cannot have a real conversation with people if it communicates in a language that is difficult to understand. Prior to Prince George, she worked for the municipalities of Fort St. John in northeastern B.C. and Sechelt on the province’s Sunshine Coast.

Julie Rogers joined the City of Prince George as the communications manager in October. She credits her four-person communications team with making municipal government more approachable. (Submitted by Julie Rogers)

“When you start off with ‘please be advised,’ ‘you are hereby notified,’ it’s intimidating and it’s not nice,” she told CBC Radio West host Sarah Penton.

“It feels like the government, and you know, as much as we are the government, we are also your neighbours.”‘

Other highlights include a message to dog owners to “scoop your poopsicles” from the snow.

“Come spring our parks are going to STINK,” the post warned, once again garnering positive responses.

Rogers says followers and engagement on the city’s social media channels have skyrocketed since they adopted the more humorous tone.

“We’re really happy that we’ve had a positive response from the public.”

Not everything is a joke, though: the city is still using straightforward messaging for issues such as budget processes and public safety, though Rogers still tries to use clear, straightforward language to make municipal issues easier for everyone to understand.

And she says if the city does something wrong, it will apologize.

“We’ve screwed up and we’re sorry, and here’s how we’ll do better,” she said. “That’s crisis communications 101.”

Rogers says most of the people who leave comments on the city’s Facebook page are nice, but she asks people to stay civil in online discussions.

“You’re entitled to your opinion, thanks for sharing it,” she said. “Don’t attack people … we’re not going to please everybody.”

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Why the nature of TikTok could exacerbate a worrisome social media trend – Boise State Public Radio

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In recent years, parents and policymakers alike have started to focus on the negative effects social media can have on young people, on everything from introducing them to hate groups to encouraging eating disorders. So we want to tell you about another debate that’s emerging around what some think might be a new threat, the self-diagnosing of mental health issues. There doesn’t seem to be any hard data on this, but if you spend any time on TikTok or Reddit or other platforms, you can easily see videos documenting mental health symptoms – sometimes from health professionals, often not. On TikTok, for example, if you type #DID, which stands for a dissociative identity disorder, you’ll find videos that total 1.5 billion views on that topic alone. And while some people think the increased discussion of mental health is a good thing, others worry it’s creating a misunderstanding about certain mental disorders.

To help us break down this trend and what’s being done to address it, we’ve called Taylor Lorenz, a technology and culture reporter. And she’s with us now. Welcome. Thanks so much for joining us once again.

TAYLOR LORENZ: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Now, before we dive in, I’m sorry if this sounds super-basic, but for folks who don’t know, what exactly is TikTok? And how does something like self-diagnosis work on a platform like that?

LORENZ: So TikTok is a short-form video app where people can go and post videos around 15 seconds to three minutes long set to music, usually. A lot of these are just dance videos, cooking videos, things like that. And then a significant portion are people sort of sharing information about their lives. So they might be talking about struggles that they have, interpersonal relationships and mental health.

When it comes to mental health, a lot of people on TikTok are very open about their own mental health struggles. So, you know, for instance, hey, I struggle with ADHD. Here’s how it makes my life hard. Here’s how I’m trying to address it. And sometimes they can get pretty personal. So viewers then watch that, and, you know, some of it resonates with them to the point that they wonder if they themselves are struggling with that mental issue.

MARTIN: So, you know, I mean, it’s not like it’s new for people to use media to talk about any kinds of health issues – I mean, blogs and, you know, YouTube, for example. What do you think it is about TikTok that’s making this such a big deal right now? – because, as we said, kind of, there’s really a debate opening up about this, and some professionals in this field are really concerned. Is there something about TikTok that you think makes this particularly worrisome?

LORENZ: TikTok is so fundamentally different than every other social platform out there right now because the primary way that you consume content is through this algorithmically generated feed. You could actually be on TikTok all day and never follow a single person and you would just be getting fed this feed of content. Every other social platform – Twitter, Instagram, YouTube – you have to subscribe to someone else’s content. So when things go viral on TikTok, suddenly they’re sort of just shoved into the feeds of millions of people that might not have ever followed that stuff before. So I think it just – the mechanisms of it allow certain things to spread and allows certain videos to really take hold in a way that they couldn’t.

MARTIN: As we said, there are a lot of professionals who say, you know what? We’ve talked so much about destigmatizing mental health issues. People are finally doing it, and now people are mad about that. But other people are concerned that people aren’t doing the second step, which is to getting confirmation or to actually seeking out professionals who know more about it or that they may be misdiagnosing themselves, which, as we know, can always be…

LORENZ: Yeah.

MARTIN: …You know, worrisome. So do we know something about this trend? Has this been studied in some way? Like, do – you know what I mean?

LORENZ: Yeah.

MARTIN: Is there anything we actually know as opposed to what we suspect?

LORENZ: Researchers are just beginning to study the effects of these things. And I don’t have any kind of specific numbers. I will say that, like, I do think the conversation sometimes gets flipped a little bit backwards, where people say, like, if they’re going on TikTok and they’re getting the idea that they have certain conditions, but then they don’t go and get the diagnosis.

A lot of times the reason that they’re going on TikTok is because there are all of these hurdles in the health care system to getting these mental health diagnoses. It’s incredibly hard, especially during the pandemic, to even get an appointment for a lot of people. And a lot of these people are minors, so it can be even harder for them to kind of get mental health care. So I think it’s kind of like TikTok is a symptom of the broader problem instead of TikTok is necessarily causing the problem, if that makes sense.

MARTIN: And as we mentioned, that, you know, policymakers have gotten very interested in social media – people from across the political spectrum. So wondering whether social media companies have said anything about this kind of content?

LORENZ: Well, they definitely regulate it in certain ways. So, you know, there are hashtags that are banned on TikTok for certain – you know, self-harm. If you post on Instagram about – you know, joking about killing yourself, you’ll get a pop up asking if you need help. You know, social media companies are trying to kind of incorporate some of these things, I think, because of that regulatory pressure from Washington. But at the end of the day, it’s a little bit hard because some of these people are just – it’s not against any kind of, like, terms and policies to share about your own mental health journey. And so I think it’s, like – it’s a little hard to regulate.

I will say another thing that I know these companies take pretty seriously is eating disorder content, which is so rampant on social media. TikTok came under fire for having a lot of this content in the feed, being distributed. And I know that they’ve since kind of banned a lot of it. So I think it’s a bit of a whack-a-mole situation.

MARTIN: So before we let you go, given how long you’ve covered tech and how we use it, is this something that parents should be concerned about in some way? And is this something that you think tech companies should do – should be paying more attention to?

LORENZ: In terms of the, like, diagnoses of things, I think it’s just really important to have these open conversations with your kid, you know, and say, like, hey, well, what do you think? Or why do you think that? You know, so many people – when I was looking into doing a different story kind of related to this last year, I talked to one therapist, and she was saying, you know, so many people come on to TikTok looking for, you know, what’s wrong with them. And they might get – think that they have a diagnosis and then kind of come to the therapist. And it actually turns out there is very much something going on. It might not be what they think it is, but it got – it’s what got them in the door, you know, to see someone.

And so I think parents need to, like, be comfortable taking that second step instead of just dismissing their child’s concerns. Oh, you saw a bunch of those videos on TikTok. But that’s nonsense. You know, say, hey, why do you feel like that stuff is resonating so much? And how can I help you solve some of these problems?

MARTIN: And then the tech companies – do you think that there’s more they need to be paying attention to?

LORENZ: What the tech companies – they need to focus on is surfacing relevant information. You know, if you search the hashtag #ADHD, for instance, sometimes you don’t always get the most relevant information. And so I think, you know, maybe they need to be highlighting, you know, like, sort of experts and vetted experts and make sure that there’s not disinformation flowing around. I think some of the stuff can just be, yeah, so subjective. I would love for them to have hubs for some of these different things and really, you know, integrate some of the doctors that are using these platforms already to kind of provide, you know, valuable and fact-checked information.

MARTIN: That’s Taylor Lorenz. She reports on tech and culture, and she’s currently writing a book about the world of online creators. Taylor Lorenz, thanks so much for your time.

LORENZ: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: And let’s say this. If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Edmonton Police Service taking on ‘complete review’ of social media after recent backlash – Globalnews.ca

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The Edmonton Police Service said it will be reviewing its social media practices and accounts after a Facebook post in December drew a lot of negative attention.

During Thursday’s police commission meeting, Chief Dale McFee answered questions about a controversial post on the Edmonton Police canine unit’s Facebook page from December.

The now-deleted post detailed the arrest of a naked man who broke into a Home Depot on Christmas Eve and was caught by a police service dog. The post was widely criticized for being insensitive.

“It doesn’t reflect the values of the EPS,” McFee said.

Read more:

Edmonton police delete online post detailing K9 arrest: ‘The post was inappropriate’

The police chief, however, defended the use of the police dog to take down the suspect.

“It was a commercial break and enter of a serious violent offender on meth. Like all other canine engagements, that part will be reviewed,” he explained.

The post, however, he said was not acceptable.

“It didn’t need to be posted the way it was,” he said.

“That was not the canine handler. That was somebody different and that individual has been spoken to about his behaviour in relation to posting and I think we’ve gotten to a good outcome on that and we consider this closed.”

During Thursday’s meeting, the head of communications for EPS said it’s undergoing a “complete review” of its social media accounts.

“We’re also looking at how many accounts we have. Do we have the right accounts? We are looking at quality over quantity, making sure that they abide by our social media policy, that they have the right training,” Michael James said.

It wasn’t the first time a social media post on EPS channels received backlash.

Read more:

Edmonton Police Service gets backlash for ‘misogynistic’ Tik Tok video

In August, a video on the EPS community engagement TikTok struck a nerve.

It showed an officer impersonating Stone Cold Steve Austin — a professional wrestler known for beer drinking.

In the video, the officer caught what was later clarified as water before driving off.

Text on the video read: “When you get a text from your wife that a guy is at home picking up your daughter for a date”.

“It doesn’t seem like they have a strong social media plan in place,” said social media strategist Brittney Le Blanc.

She said EPS online policies should have been reviewed a while ago and suggested the force focuses on being informative rather than trendy.

“I don’t think that this is just to blame on one person,” Le Blanc said.

“I don’t think it just comes down to communications. I think this is a problem with the culture within EPS completely.”

It was suggested Thursday social media posts on Edmonton Police accounts should go through a vetting process — a practice EPS admits is not mandatory.

Le Blanc said that should be rule number one.

“I think you want to have that sober second opinion that can say maybe we don’t post this, maybe we don’t write this kind of content,” Le Blanc added.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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