By Katelyn Norris

I remember when news broke about Kobe Bryant’s death. It was a simple sliver of trending news on my Twitter feed. The next hour, however, my entire timeline was flooded with tweets; some were sympathy for the family, others were breaking news about the crash. Everyone was simultaneously informing each other while also being informed. This is an everyday occurrence on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. But when it comes to breaking news or times of crisis, these platforms become the hub of information.

 In 2020, this constant state of connectivity has been to our benefit. This year has not gotten off to a great start: from the Australian wildfire, Bryant’s death and our current situation with COVID-19. With all of these events, I got every breaking news updates from social media.

 In the article “How Social Media Has Changed How We Consume News”, Nicole Martin writes more than 2.4 billion people use social media as their main source for online news.

“…[N]early 64.5 % [of internet users] receive breaking news from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram instead of traditional media,” Martin wrote.

Anna Thomas, a Bellarmine University sophomore, is a part of the 64.5% of people.

“ I use social media as a source of news, however, I prefer to watch the news or read new articles online. I think social media can be helpful in spreading information since it’s a source a lot of people use,” Thomas said.

 I am also a part of the 2.4 billion people who use social media as my main source of news. I am receiving breaking news updates from around the world about COVID-19. During the wildfires, my feed was crowded with new information and requests for relief funds. I was “in the know,” and it was thanks to all the bits of information that I got from Twitter and Instagram.

Many argue that using social media as a source for breaking news can be harmful. An example of this is when a user doesn’t verify what he or she learns on social media with an actual news source.

For me, whenever I see breaking news on Twitter, I always go to news sites like CNN or CBS to confirm the details. Yes, social media can allow for ease of access, but it is up to readers to understand they need to consume wisely.

Kevin Haas, a sophomore at Bellarmine, said it is important for him to verify news as well.

“ I use social media as a source of news. It’s a very good way to have instant access to quality information, but I find it helpful to check your sources,” Haas said.

This ease of access to new information, especially in a crisis, can be lifesaving. The constant flow of news from multiple sources can provide people ways to keep themselves safe or to help others. It’s all about how we use what we see on social media timelines.

  Another argument that people make is by disseminating breaking news through social media, it is more likely to cause hysteria and invoke panic.

 Panic and mass hysteria is bound to happen when crisis-level news breaks, regardless of where the news is obtained. In the article “’Headline stress disorder’: How to cope with the anxiety caused by the 24/7 news cycle,” Dr. Jana Scrivani, a clinical psychologist, said having a 24-hour news cycle could create negative feelings like anxiety and hopelessness.

“Subjecting ourselves to an endless barrage of tragedies and trauma can foster a real sense of being out of control,” Scrivani said.

 I’m sure that hearing about Bryant’s death via broadcast news was just as shocking as seeing a tweet. Seeing every single update on the coronavirus — whether it’s through social media or broadcast new — can be panic-inducing. It’s all about the content and how its presented.

 On social media, there are numerous updates all at once. This can be overwhelming, particularly when it’s bad news. It can be hours after the news originally broke to see it on broadcast or print, but the panicked feelings can emerge all the same.

This all comes back to being a thoughtful and responsible news consumer. It’s all about taking the bite-sized pieces of news we see on social media and looking further into them.

In the first three months of this year, I have relied heavily on social media to know what is happening in the world. Sometimes the news I saw was distressing, and other times it made me feel overjoyed.            

The fact is social media are some of the easiest ways to be connected in our world today. And this year alone has shown how much of a role being connected plays in how we consume news. The tragedies and pandemic that have ruled the timeline demonstrate the power social media hold to inform the world.

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