Is Facebook for news?

by | Apr 4, 2016 | Featured, Uncategorized

I logged into Facebook last night to send a link to an article from the Edmonton Journal to my best friend and was puzzled when our message history didn’t come up. A quick check of my friend’s list showed me that he had deactivated his account. Many of my friends and other people I know have stubbornly refrained from getting accounts, have deleted their accounts or just declared a social medial “holiday.” Is the way we’re using Facebook changing these days?

I remember when Facebook was first opening up to high school students (previously it was just open to post-secondary students with .edu addresses) and my classmates were eagerly signing up. It was a strange world – there were no privacy settings to worry about and you could see the profiles and wall of anyone in your network. Of course, as teen girls, that inevitably meant that we spent most of our time either messaging each other, posting inane messages on each other’s walls and looking at the profiles of our not-so-secret crushes.

I deleted my account after approximately a year and balanced out the excess of teenage drama in the school hallways with a peacefully quiet online life. While I think many essays about young teens and their online lives can be excessively fear-mongering and neglect recognizing that every generation has had their own challenges to deal with, I’m definitely glad I spent most of my teen years away from the Internet!

Over the last few years, studies have shown that an increasing portion of the population is getting their news from social media sources like Facebook. For example, a recent study from the Pew Research Centre showed that 61 per cent of millennials (ages 18-33 at the time of the 2014 survey) said they got most of their political news from Facebook and only 37 per cent responded that local TV was their primary news source. In contrast, even Internet-using baby boomers (ages 50-68) report almost perfectly mirroring statistics. While this was a web-based survey taken of American adults with online access, I’m confident that similar results would be found in Canada. If our Facebook feeds are dominating our attention for how we get news, what is the information we’re consuming? Does it affect the way we use Facebook now?

These days, my Facebook feed is an interesting mix of arts and culture writing, local news, splashy headlines and babies and engagement rings. I’m definitely keeping my own usual sources of news gathering. I primarily use Facebook as a messaging service – I use it to co-ordinate group projects at school and send quick messages to friends. I don’t know if it’s a reflection on the way my friends and I use Facebook or not but I certainly wouldn’t rely on it as a replacement for my usual process of media gathering!

I’m curious – is Facebook your primary news source or just a social network? Leave us a comment on Facebook or Twitter (or pop by our office in E-128B) and let us know what role social media has in your life.

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