By Lina Lew
The Nexus (Camino Del Sur, San Diego)
If President Donald Trump and I have anything in common, it’s our love for Twitter.
With more than 330 million active users, Twitter is one of the most widely used social media platforms out there, ranking high in popularity among others like Instagram and Snapchat. Commonly known as the breeding ground for memes, millennials, and angry extremists, Twitter is primarily a platform with an original intent of communication and entertainment. But because of its label as another typical social media website, Twitter’s wide expanse of other features, such as its “Moments” news page, is largely underrated and not widely regarded as a respectable way to get news.
Still, despite Twitter’s original branding as a mainstream social media, it undeniably functions as a quick and effective way to spread breaking news.
In this day and age, phones have become the new morning paper. By the time Twitter’s millions of active users make the rounds and hop on Twitter for their daily news, a breaking news story—a shooting, a plane crash, an earthquake—will be at the top of Twitter’s “Moments” page, accompanied by a sea of personal reactions from eye-witnesses, commentary from politicians, and links to articles that cover the issues more in-depth. Instantly, millions will know about the Parkland shooting, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s firing, and Trump’s alleged affair with Stormy Daniels.
Other platforms also act as news outlets, such as Facebook’s news sidebar and Snapchat’s sponsored CNN stories. But far more people use Twitter to follow breaking news than any other social media. According to Pew Research Center, 59 percent of users follow news on Twitter, compared to 31 percent on Facebook.
Because it is still a social media platform available to millions, not all tweets regarding current events can be reliable. Since anyone is allowed to tweet, Twitter can get messy in terms of sorting out the concrete facts from the online trolls. Despite this, the issue’s coverage and promotion is still a step in the right direction. It’s a step toward circulating important news. Even if information comes from first-person insights and reactions about the subject, it reveals an important, personal side to the news that other news stations cannot contribute. When breaking news surfaces, Twitter gives the floor to people who can provide information from a first-person point of view, whereas more conventional news stations like CNN often only report second-hand context. During the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Twitter acted as a platform that encouraged women to speak up about their own stories in the #MeToo awareness campaign for sexual abuse and harassment. After actress Alyssa Milano shared #MeToo on Twitter, the hashtag has been tweeted more than 1.7 million times since October.
Twitter also encourages younger generations to absorb and participate in current events. Exposure to information, even when it’s not actively sought, is important in increasing participation in social issues.
While there might be a slight degree of confirmation bias when it comes to who users actually follow, features like the “Moments” page are curated by Twitter staff to showcase neutral information on breaking news. The “Moments” page, being the same for every person, combats the bias found in the feed. For instance, many at the scene of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting updated the world during the chaos, with users being able to verify their location. Yes, many could be tweeting falsities, but with Twitter verifying accurate information, there are safeguards against the spread of fake news.
Twitter has surpassed the typical criteria of a social media platform and has ascended into a new domain as a source of information. It’s become the best of both worlds—one of news and one of memes—that provide a unique sharing experience between the new source and its readership, something that other social media platforms have not yet brought to the table.
Photo Credit: Hamza Butt