Social media becoming a norm for finding news, which can be unreliable

Photo illustration. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)

MUNCIE (Network Indiana) — People have been trying to get the latest updates on the spread of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, whether that’s watching their local news on TV, listening to it on the radio, or reading the newspaper. However, many Americans and Hoosiers are getting unreliable information on social media.

Dom Caristi, a telecommunications professor at Ball State University, says a study from the Reuters Institute shows nearly half of Americans get their news just from social media. Caristi says that makes sense, with the amount of time we’re spending on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram going up during the pandemic. He also says that can cause a lot of trouble.

“The biggest problem with relying on social media is that there is no check in the system,” Caristi said. “Anything can get out there.”

He says one of the issues is that it can sometimes be hard to spot the difference between a reliable, legit news source and something with intentional false information. That’s why Caristi says you should take some time to think before sharing and posting.

“If you can only find the story or information from a single source, it might not be legitimate,” he said. “Anytime you’re getting any information from a single source, you might want to think twice before you retweet that.”

Caristi added that you should trust your local TV station, radio station or newspaper over “a website that was created yesterday.”

“People like to hammer the traditional media — newspaper, radio, television — but they sure get it right a lot more than the newer, less establishments.”

The professor also says you should be careful throwing the phrase “fake news” around, because it’s hurting the credibility of legitimate media outlets and journalists.

“If people come away from this thinking ‘well, you can’t trust anybody,’ then we have created a system that makes the news less valuable,” Caristi said.

He says some people like to use that phrase just when they don’t want to believe the news is true or that they just disagree with it.