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The power of staying informed

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In 2018, 68 percent of adults in America said they at least occasionally got news through social media, according to the Pew Research Center.

Bad news is everywhere. We look at our phones or open our laptops and find ourselves bombarded with stories about irreversible climate change, mass shootings and car crashes. 

The sad and infuriating events often make the headlines while all of the good that happens in the world goes overlooked or underreported: the planes that landed safely, the couples who got engaged, the people who finally got a raise or landed their dream job, good samaritans who simply did an act of kindness for another human being. 

Ninety-five percent of American adults say they follow the news regularly, but 72 percent of them believe that the news blows things out of proportion. Fifty-six percent of Americans say that the news causes them stress, according to the American Psychological Association.

Keeping up with the news can not only be overwhelming, but extremely disheartening. However, no matter how upsetting the news can be, it is our responsibility as citizens to stay informed of what is happening in the world.

Where UH Mānoa students get their news

University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa junior psychology major Jess Hodges keeps up with the news through social media and the people around her. 

“I don’t specifically follow the news but sometimes things pop up on my Instagram or people will send me things,” Hodges said. “I also have professors and guest speakers in my classes that talk about current issues.”

Sophomore marine biology major Gracie Otto gets her news from people around her, too. 

“I honestly don’t follow the news,” Otto said. “I get my news from what I hear from people. I have to log in to get on the wifi and so I see the MSN page every day and usually I read the headlines.”

Freshman global environmental science and sustainability major Laura Lenhart keeps up with the news through a specific social media platform. 

“I get my news from Twitter,” she said. “I follow a lot of politicians and stuff that’s relevant to me, and so I see different news articles from all around.”

Social media and “fake news” 

In 2018, 68 percent of adults in America said they at least occasionally got news through social media, according to the Pew Research Center.

While social media is great for connecting people, it usually does not make for a trustworthy news platform.

Anyone has the ability to share anything they want on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook or otherwise. The news feed on Snapchat will tell you about Kylie Jenner’s latest drama but not about the events and policies that affect your daily life. Social media can also polarize beliefs and is filled with “fake news.”

Fake news is defined as “false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke,” according to the Cambridge English Dictionary. 

From Facebook posts with false information to fabricated tweets that go viral, it is hard to know who or what to trust. These fake articles and stories can also have real-life repercussions when too many people believe them. 

It is partly your responsibility to not trust and share fake news. You can only do this if you know how to distinguish between a credible and non-credible source. 

UH Mānoa journalism professor Julien Gorbach understands the importance of news literacy all too well and advises his students to source their information.

“People go on the internet and do not know how to read the digital world, and that’s why they get sucked into stories like Pizzagate and all these wormholes,” Gorbach said. “Pay attention to the source of your information. A lot of people my age who are not news literate don’t know to look at the source of what they’re looking at and don’t realize how important that is in clarifying the truth.”

Bad news does not have to be disheartening

While the stories in the news can be negative, looking at the news as a way to better understand the world can make it a much more positive experience. The news can also serve as a conversation starter and a way to connect with other people on common issues. Politicians and others in power rely on the indifference of people, and following the news puts the power in your hands.

“I try to teach my students that all kinds of decisions that are being made whether they understand it yet or not are going to have a really serious impact on their lives,” Gorbach said. “They can choose to sit on the sidelines and let other people run their lives. The people who have money and power want people to do that. There are lots of people who are smart enough to count on your ignorance and apathy.” 

Staying informed

Taking a few minutes out of your day to read the daily news from a reputable source is worth it. 

As a person participating in a society, who will have to face the repercussions of today’s political decisions, you cannot turn a blind eye to injustice and hope it will all go away. These policies have an impact on you whether you like it or not. 

By staying informed, you can ultimately make all the difference. You can vote. You can protest. You can help change the status quo.