Why don’t people read the news anymore? According to a study done by Pew Research, the amount of Americans who get their news from television has dropped nearly 10%, from 57% to 50%. This study was done in 2018 and the numbers have dropped even lower since. And according to The Guardian, 42% of Americans avoid the news entirely because they don’t want to believe it.

In my opinion, we have social media to blame for a lack of attention to news media as well as the spread of misinformation.

With platforms like TikTok, in which video clips can be a mere seven seconds long, our attention spans are decreasing, making the average person less likely to sit and read an entire news article or sit through an entire news broadcast. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center from 2019 to 2020 found that those who rely heavily on social media as their main news source in the U.S. tend to be less likely than other news consumers to look closely at major world events, leaving them less knowledgeable on these events. 

Yes, social media provides a platform in which communication is promoted and easily had. But just how much of this online discussion, especially when it comes to politics and national news, is actually productive conversation? And how much can be deemed arguing for the sake of arguing, not to come to a conclusion that will bring about change or productivity?

I believe that contemporary politics in the United States are extremely polarized. Jesse Shapiro, Ph.D., a professor of Political Economy at Brown University, conducted a study alongside Stanford University as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper in 2020 to address the reasons why the U.S. is polarizing faster than other democracies across the globe. 

The study details the phenomenon known as “affective polarization” which explains that citizens who affiliate with a certain political party will express negative feelings toward other political parties that are not their own. Compared to other democracies such as Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland and more, the polarization in American politics is exceptional. 

In some of his findings in the study, Shapiro said, “There’s evidence that within the U.S., the two major political parties have become more homogeneous in certain ways, including ideologically and socially. So when you identify with a certain party and you’re looking across the aisle, the people you’re looking at are more different from you than they were a few decades ago.” 

People in certain political parties are homogenous in the sense that they are increasingly aligned in race, religion, ideology, etc. The example Shapiro gives is that Republicans today are more likely to be religiously affiliated, while Democrats are more likely to be secular. 

I think that the media has solidified this notion that each political party in the U.S. is homogenous. The narrative that Republicans think, act and represent themselves in certain ways while Democrats think, act and represent themselves in the opposite ways and that the two cannot overlap is strong in today’s society. 

And it is this polarization of the two big political parties that translates into news media, as different news outlets all have different biases, either leaning left or right in the content they produce. This may cause readers to avoid certain news platforms, or simply avoid the news altogether, as it often feels more opinionated than fact-presenting. 

I find that with the increase in social media, it becomes a game of “I’m right” and “You’re wrong” simply because one affiliates with a certain political party.

In today’s society, we pre-determine citizens’ personalities, religious beliefs and more simply based on which political party they affiliate with. We write them off if we do not affiliate with the same political party rather than hearing them out and engaging in productive conversation. 

It is a known fact that people who consume their daily news via social media are the least informed. Though it is quick and easy, and I myself am guilty of reading quick headlines on Instagram, Twitter etc., I believe that if we are to have informed political discussion, we need to take a step away from these platforms. 

That is not to say that there is no bias in the news either. As I mentioned before, every news outlet leans one way, so it is important to read a variety of sources and be aware of the bias of each source you consume. I believe that taking the extra time out of our day to read the news rather than scroll through social media, will lead to a more informed society and maybe lead to more productive political conversation, rather than the arguing we see today.  

I do not see this day coming anytime soon, as our attention spans only continue to drop and social media platforms only continue to grow in popularity, but if you find yourself with spare time, use that time to read the news and inform yourself on what is going on in the world around you. It is so important. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.