By Brandi Mitchell
Web Content Contributor
There are a lot of amazing things our generation has ushered in. We have our faults (top of the list being the revival of juuls) and we have our triumphs, like a fresh perspective in politics, a raging idealism I have always admired and a new concern for the world on an unprecedented level made possible by the influx of global communication.
I have friends that are brilliant, witty, passionate, driven, educated, well-read and the harbingers of a better world. Yet, there is one social media platform popular among my peers where intellect and information, compromise and reason – quite frankly sanity – goes to die: Twitter.
I am a Twitter user, so consider me the canary in the coal mine and this article is my song. In its truest form, Twitter is a mental break from the exhausting and endless highlight reel of Instagram, filled with adorable videos of animals, funny viral videos and a chance for our generation to commiserate about the struggles of living in the 21st century.
However, I cannot stress this enough: to all of my fellow twitter users, this is not a news source. Twitter somehow simultaneously brings out the best of our world’s comedic talent and the absolute worst of its politics. Because anyone can post anything with a limited number of characters and no prerequisite for any level of accuracy or legitimacy, completely incorrect and misleading information garners hundreds of thousands of retweets.
Twitter news is ignorant people promoting other ignorant people’s opinions with no real idea of anything that is going on or any grasp on the reality of the situation. Think I’m exaggerating? When people were “exposing” which companies contributed to the Trump campaign, a girl tweeted a list of the company names with the comment “stop eating at these restaurants”. The list included Olive Garden, Chick-Fil-A and Wendy’s, and attached a link to the OpenSecrets website that listed the corporations. The tweet generated over 500,000 retweets, meaning over 500,000 people deliberately promoted this tweet.
The issue? According to the Federal Election Commission, corporations are legally unable to donate to political campaigns. In fact, there is an actual disclaimer on the website the girl linked that said, “The organization itself did not donate, rather the money came from the organization’s PACs, their individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate family members.”
Did anyone bother to understand campaign finance before they chose to spread this? Did anyone even bother to read the actual link that the girl attached that actually discounted her tweet (a rare time when a tweet included a source)? No. They did not, because among our generation’s worst qualities is that we have a complete inability to apply reason to “news” that we read on twitter.
There are countless examples. The old adage “if it’s on the internet it must be true” has never been more accurate than when applied to this social media site. Beyond even the proliferation of “fake news” and uninformed, outrage-style tweets designed to infuriate people by providing no information grounded in truth or reality, the politics of twitter are a sad misrepresentation of our generation.
Both political parties and their supporters have a presence on Twitter, and both sides trumpet their worst qualities for the Twitterverse to see. In the wake of any major political event, tweets are retweeted again and again that are far more polarizing than would be expressed or believed in real life.
Look no further for proof of Twitter’s black hole of misinformation than the fact that one of the major tactics Russia used to disrupt the 2019 elections was to spread false information or “fake news”on Twitter with provocative headlines that were retweeted because people did not bother to click on the link or consider the source.
This social media site exposes the tragic and potentially nationally harmful weakness of our generation: we don’t subscribe to legitimate regulated news sources. Most of our generation doesn’t watch the news on TV, we don’t pay to receive online newspapers and we don’t bother to research the headlines that spark outrage. Instead of channeling energy into worthwhile efforts to improve what we are passionate about, we allow ourselves to be derailed into useless anger and indignation over events that are entirely misrepresented.
So my plea to my fellow college students is this: please stop getting your news from Twitter. Stop assuming the political climate of our nation from what you see your peers saying in their tweets. And please stop contributing to this madness. Watch CNN, Fox, MSNBC, local news – anything. Read the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or whatever outlet you connect with. I subscribe to the New York Times and it’s only $4 a month with a student email (that’s the cost of two White Claws, don’t act like you can’t afford it).
Allow your vivacious idealism to translate into what you want to see happen in our world, and don’t participate in an information gap that is harmful and frustrating. Check before you tweet, check before you retweet and extract yourself from the fruitless echochamber of twitter politics with a commitment to integrity and education. And as you come up, bring others up with you. Kindly, and with grace.
Feature image by Brandi Mitchell