How does fake news affect young people in the social media?

The information we reach nowadays has never been easier and faster due to the rapid development of new technology that emerged in XXI century which allowed media to enter the mass media stream and extend the audience to a much bigger scale. Therefore, in these days being updated with the breaking news is often with a click of our cell phones. We, as a highly developed society, have created massive forms of communication and various methods of obtaining information including phone applications that allow people to reach the news at the very moment when they are released.

However, with the fast-growing section of tech companies, people gradually cease to purchase a traditional printing press and shift to a digital one, which is often led by powerful corporations. The most vulnerable social group is among youngsters who are nonresistant to fake news and easily manipulated through social media. An open platform which often uses unverified contents and little regulations.

The main issue of this article is to delve into the question of how does fake news affect young people in the social media? As these online platforms had strongly gained importance among youth it had also become one of the most discussed issues surrounding the media problems and its dangerous impact on the society.

Fake news in a world definition stands for deliberate disinformation of an individual or a group to trigger the desired response. It has been used in the ancient times but became commonly known and widely spread in recent years especially as a tool on the political ground. Moreover, spreading sensational disinformation has also become a machine for generating profits and maximizing revenues by yellow journalism (a type of journalism that is considered unprofessional due to its practices and methods).

What is important to note is that this kind of publication has recently overtaken the majority of social media news. In the US about 60% of citizens derive their daily news from such platforms as Facebook or Twitter. Not surprisingly only in UK 99% of youth between 16-24 yrs use social media on a weekly basis (Business Insider survey 2017). The in-depth analysis derived from Pew Research Center and many others clearly show how rapidly the social media become a vast area for the circulation of information and contents. Thus, it has transformed into a major platform for advertising brands, commercial adds, cyber attacks, catfishing hacks etc. from which the most vulnerability is found the youngest users.

Young adults are found to be the greatest consumers of news but lack of critical thinking or verification of the content’s credibility often leads to an increase in fake news. As an example, a popular method is the Clickbait which aims to gain as many visitors as it can by persuading them to click on a specific link which results in a publisher’s greater revenue. Even though the page does not necessarily provide with accurate messages. From this reason, many young people unconsciously suffer from the weakest provision of professional news but social media platforms are designed to keep its users in constant motion of scrolling for more contents by what means some publishers use to their advantage by creating irrelevant pop-up adverts, running quite a profitable business. Unfortunately, as for the readers, the overwhelming amount of fake news and hoax stories created from financial motives can be very damaging as disinformation tends to go viral affecting uncountable users.

Going further, one can say it can strongly alter young adults’ mind or beliefs or deeply influence their opinions on a certain subject. A major concern that was brought to discussion lately is how fake news can simply turn into a fact because of the confirmation bias – like or share option with friends that reassures our worldview or from the psychological point of view we feel more convinced and accepted with our opinion when we gain more likes. That leads to a conclusion that the truth (trustworthy information) might be of a secondary importance for the sake of comforting our beliefs.

Furthermore, the unlimited number of contents uploaded, shared and liked throughout the social media such as Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest etc. with the constant flow of data, it makes difficult to control whereas tech giants designed an algorithm for personalizing subject matter based on a user’s previous searching results. This means the ‘user experience’ is limited to a narrow range of what we already know, like, shared or believe (filter bubble). Isolation of information can have a damaging impact on teens who might not have yet a developed worldview. For instance, a condensed box of fake news in a teen’s profile may abuse his mental condition as being permanently exposed to violent, fake contents. This could lead to a social exclusion, trigger a negative feedback, create a racist worldview.

To conclude, how can we improve our social media platform and protect young people from fake news splashing everywhere? It is important to understand the risks involving the use of such services and be more critical with the news and adverts that pop up in our account. Secondly, it would be helpful to check the sources, author, date of publication but more importantly one should read between the lines to find out if there is a hidden message behind the story. If the care and responsibility are taken there is a little chance of being fooled by insignificant contents. As technology will continuously advance new ways of advertising will emerge with all the possibilities of creating harmful information. Therefore, mindfulness in the world of internet and post-truth is what needed more than ever before. By Małgorzata Nguyen Thi Borkowska


More reading: 

http://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org/resources/publications/ethics-in-the-news/fake-news
http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/social_networking.html
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/and-finally/7-reasons-why-fake-news-goes-viral-according-to-experts-36283450.html
http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/social-media/
https://www.nationalreview.com/blog/corner/why-social-media-companies-facebook-and-twitter-cant-stop-fake-news/
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