Millennials as Facebook Friends: Are We Trusted Sources or Biased Individuals?

I have 1,298 Facebook friends. Half of which I don’t know personally. That’s 1,298 people, each with their own personalities, hobbies and opinions.

I’m in my 20‘s and actively use Facebook. I’ve always been bombarded with shared posts and videos. These range anywhere from a Buzzfeed quiz titled “Which Spice Girl Are You?” to videos of puppies learning to swim.

But, with election season upon us, I’ve probably seen more articles on the presidential debates, than the former. If you’re a Millennial, chances are you can relate to what I see on my Facebook feed. Well, we’re not the only ones. 

According to a recent Pew Research study, 24% of Millennials say at least half of their Facebook news feeds relate to politics. This could be because Millennials rely on Facebook for their news more than any other generation. In fact, another study conducted by the University of Hawaii in March of 2015, shows that 88% of the Millennials surveyed use Facebook to get their news.

In addition, the study conducted by the Pew Research Center, released in June of 2015, shows that about six-in-ten online Millennials get political news on Facebook. Whereas the other generations rely on more traditional sources such as TV for their news. This research was obtained by means on an ongoing online survey, researching the different ways each generation obtains political information.

The findings of this study don’t surprise me. I admit that I’m easily influenced by my Facebook friends and their political posts. But, I don’t think that’s the way it should be. That’s not to say that I oppose of sharing political posts on Facebook either.

On the contrary, I believe social media platforms are a space where individuals can come together to share personal beliefs and challenge each other to see certain issues from different perspectives.

However, the University of Hawaii study suggests that user-generated comments on platforms such as Facebook can influence political candidate’s reputations. This study involved 70 college students, mostly 18-20 years old, who shared how they use social media to form their political opinions.

So what exactly do these studies mean for us Millennials? In a time where it’s crucial to educate ourselves on presidential candidates and policies, I personally find it damaging to rely solely on Facebook for information.

How so? Well, it’s important to recognize the chance of bias in the articles and comments we read. Instead of trusting my Facebook friends completely, I need to challenge myself to think like a journalist. That is, to log into my Facebook account with a fresh pair of eyes, free from any bias.

To some extent, that’s nearly impossible because even I have my own biases. When I log into my Facebook page, I only trust the validity of certain of my friend’s posts. This can be extremely damaging, as it leaves a lot of unread posts that I could interpret. That means there are points of view out there that I’m not giving the time of day to.

I think these study’s show that we’re using Facebook as a platform to share our political opinions, but are seeing what others share incorrectly. This study has made me realize that I should be more open to reading each article I stumble upon.

Whether it be from one of my trusted Facebook friends or one of the couple hundreds I don’t know very well, I should read each equally and interpret them for myself. After all, that’s what journalism is all about.

Sources:

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/06/01/political-news-habits-by-generation/

http://www.pewresearch.org/topics/news-media-trends/page/2/

Millennials and Political News

How social media influences Millennials’ political views

Millennials, news and important trends: Research data from the Media Insight Project

 

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