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Consume news responsibly in 2020

| Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Social media is an intrinsic part of news consumption today. As The Observer’s Social Media Editor (and now, one of the Assistant Managing Editors), this reality is not lost on me. Last semester, 15% of our online viewership came directly from clicking a link on social media, and that number continues to increase. My team works to bring you campus news somewhere you’re likely to access it. 

As a citizen of the world, I think it’s essential to be aware of national and global events. And as a student, it’s even more important. Knowing what’s going on around you informs your studies and puts what you’re learning in a broader context. We go to school so we can be of service to the world, now and when we graduate. If we don’t know what’s happening in the world, it’s hard to offer that service.

Plus, the first presidential debate is happening right here at Notre Dame. If that’s not reason enough to be reading the news, I don’t know what is. 

So be informed, but be smart about it. Make 2020 the year of responsibly getting your news from social media! Here’s what I think you should keep in mind.

1. Be sure to follow reputable sources. Verified accounts aren’t always true, and unverified accounts aren’t always false. Pay attention to who you’re following and think about how much stake you should put in what they say.

2. If something doesn’t sound right, check it out. Even if it does, check it out. To be an informed citizen, you have to be smart about the information you consume — that means asking questions and being critical of what you read, whether it be from politicians, news outlets or your grandma.

3. Read the article before you share it. Click the link, understand what it says and be able to answer a question one of your followers might have about it. Learn to recognize the difference between a news article and an opinion column. When you share it, you are proliferating that article, information or claim. Retweet responsibly.

4. Understand that you are likely to be targeted by advertising campaigns on social media. Most college students recently reached voting age and will be targeted because of that. Your perceived demographic — your interests, location, hometown, gender and more — often influences the content on your feed. Realize there is an algorithm behind it all, and being ignorant of that could make you more susceptible to unknown influences.

5. Learn about the realities of fake news, deep fakes, faked photos and other efforts influence your opinion with false information. These campaigns are happening and will continue to happen — and will likely become more frequent and sophisticated as we approach the election. Blindly consuming information on social media could leave you vulnerable to those campaigns, so be smarter than that. 

This moment in time is an incredibly exciting time to be consuming the news. Multimedia has become the norm and many outlets are experimenting with new formats and platforms. But with so much going on, it can sometimes be difficult to parse through the intricacies and nuances of world events. 

Take advantage of the value social media adds to your news consumption, but don’t log on mindlessly — be ready to question the assertions you see.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Mary Bernard

Mary Bernard is a senior with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and is the Social Media Editor for The Observer, managing and overseeing all things audience engagement.

Contact Mary