The Voices of the Unheard: Social Media is the Real News
I distinctly remember my high school english teacher scoffing at a student who said that they checked Twitter to read their daily news. Throughout my formal education, one thing that has been harped on my peers and I by teachers is the importance of a credible source. We are taught to take information from Wikipedia with a grain of salt. If a source isn’t written by a scholar, journalist, or expert in a field it allegedly isn’t trustworthy.
Older generations critique young people from relying on social media for news, that's because in the ever-changing digital age, there is a proliferation of fake news and the notion that anyone can claim anything online as fact. Rather than being quick to pass off social media news, older and younger generations alike should embrace the primary accounts and rapid reporting that is widely accessible.
According to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, 62% of U.S. adults get news on a social networking site. Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter users were most likely to get news from each site. 67% of U.S. adults use Facebook and ⅔ of those users get their news from there, which amounts to 44% of the general population.
On social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram, everyone has access to the platform. As soon as you open the app, users can navigate to different accounts, hashtags, and trending topics. Unlike newspaper and magazine websites, journal libraries, and TV shows, these apps are free to view and post. Everyone has access to the same information and it is not filtered by politics or socio-economic-interest. Many stories that have gone viral are through boosting from users. On social media there is no outright advantage of who’s stories get attention.
Following the murder of George Floyd, international outrage was sparked, thus reigniting the Black Lives Matter movement. Unlike previous publized killings of Black people at the hands of police, this movement felt different. This time, through social media, Black people called attention to the systematic racism and microaggressions that are ingrained into every facet of our society.
Uoma Beauty created the #PullUpOrShutUp Instagram movement to challenge brands to share the number of Black employees at their corporate and executive level. The numbers don’t lie, and after many brands released their figures, the glaring reality is that there are a sparse amount of Black employees in high positions in major corporations. Therefore, disseminating another way that Black people are underrepresented. This movement could not have revealed so much information had it not been for the personal Instagram accounts that flooded brand comment sections daily with the hashtag.
Due to Twitter, many more murders of transgender black women and lynchings of black people were divulged throughout June. In the final weeks of the month there were reportedly four murders of transgender people of color, but transphobia and a lack of care leads murders of transgender people to not receive any media coverage. Friends and allies create hashtags and shareable flyers in hopes to bring justice. Oluwatoyin Salau, a Black woman who was a vocal Florida protester was found dead on June 13. If it were not for the outcry on social media, with #justicefortoyin, her murder would not have received mainstream attention.
Just as there are many black girls who go missing every month and you will never hear their names being spoken. The narrow white lens perpetuates the news cycle and stories that fit the mold are given hierarchy.
Rather than promoting the narrative of fake news and not believing what you read online, people should invest time in observing the personal narratives that are presented on social media. Everyday stories of sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia are the anomaly that popular media fails to address. With no promised monetary gain or political agenda and nothing to gain but awareness, regular people advocating via social media are arguably the people you should be getting your news from.
Written by Maame Asante