Opinion: Share news with care

Sharing biased or fake news divides instead of informs.

Sharing fake news has been around since the 1890’s during the yellow journalism era when papers used exaggeration and sensationalism to outsell the competition. It escalated to printing false stories and unfounded speculation about why the USS Maine blew up, eventually leading the nation into the Spanish-American War. These stories helped sell more papers and thus the incentive to spread misinformation was born. 

Over a century later, social media enabled biased or incorrect information to spread at an alarming rate. Speculation and satirical content will forever be a problem if not clarified from the start. This requires social media users to correct misinformation quickly to stop the spread. Regarding bias, websites like Allsides.com can help readers check how media outlets on different sides of the ideological spectrum cover  current issues.  With all the information available on today’s internet, people should dig deeper before drawing a conclusion about a topic and sharing it.  

Former President Donald Trump was the first president to be personally active on social media (mostly on Twitter) while in office, which created a direct connection to his followers. While president, Trump retweeted sometimes unverified or false information, which gave it a much wider reach than fake news typically had before.

Out of 18 students surveyed in grades 9-12, seven said they do not do research before sharing news on social media. Among the 18, nine identified as supporters of the Republican party and nine of the Democratic party. Imagine if another seven people for each of the seven who claimed to not research share the same fake news. When a single person shares a post on social media, hundreds and even thousands of followers will continue to pass on the information to more people.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate the news, which initially caused fear among the general public. Two years later, public health officials have a better understanding of how the virus operates and the reporting reflects that; however, media outlets still tend to overemphasize fear of increasing cases, especially with Omicron.

It is a responsibility of this generation to use the tools of the internet to get at the truth instead of allowing opinions to dominate and divide.