Let’s face it: we’ve all gotten our news from social media from time to time. Or, okay, maybe more than that. Most millennials get their news from social media a lot more often than other sources. When was the last time you got your news from a newspaper or the radio?
If you’re like many millennials, it may have been quite a while.
Millennials’ news and social media habits have become distressing to millennials. But millennials’ media consumptions habits are also very different than generations before them. Newspapers and radio are definitely less popular news outlets for millennials. It’s a lot easier to get your news from social media when you’re on your phone all the time.
When it comes to news sources for millennials, social media is king. Over 44% of millennials get daily news from social media such as Instagram and Facebook, the top millennials media outlets. That’s nearly three times more than the percentage of millennials who receive daily news from cable or network tv, and four times more than the percentage of millennials who read newspapers.
And yet, social media is also the least trusted news source in the country. Overall, people put more trust in radio, newspapers, and podcast news sources than social media. This is due in large part to fears of fake news on social media. Although younger generations are less susceptible to inaccurate news than older generations, younger generations are also more likely to become overwhelmed by news. This often leads to doomscrolling and other unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Millennials spend a lot of time on social media, so it makes sense that social media is also a big source of news intake. However, I worry about millennials only getting their news from social media. And the mistrust of news sources on sites like Instagram, Facebook or YouTube? There’s good reason for it.
I get it – getting up to speed on world events solely via Instagram is tempting. It’s always just a click and a scroll away. However, there are some problems with this. Getting news from social media means getting information that can be skewed and incomplete. It’s difficult to get the full, unbiased story. Yes, millennials may be savvier about not falling into the fake-news trap, but they can still be swayed by skewed information.
Receiving news from social media also means you’re likely getting sucked into the biases and views of your friends, family, and complete strangers because that’s the reality of social media. Even if you aren’t trying to see comments or likes from other people, you will anyway. It’s easy to get swept up in everyone else’s tumultuous emotions and to have this factor into your own judgments of the events.
Getting news in this way also leads to confirmation bias. This means your beliefs are continually confirmed by sources that agree with those beliefs. We all tend to seek out information – whether intentionally or unintentionally – that confirms our world views.
Social media provides snippets of information that are algorithmically designed to align with your search history, beliefs, and past clicks. Social media confirmation bias can lead to being closed-minded, assuming you know everything there is to know about a nuanced topic, and feeling angry and defensive when someone disagrees with you. Ultimately, this type of bias can result in a very “us vs them” mentality, which leads to disconnect and division.
Finally, receiving news from social media tends to lead to doomscrolling. This often produces overwhelm, which can result in things like impulse buys. When we are stressed and overstimulated on the internet, we tend to reach for things that will distract us and provide some dopamine in our systems. (Why yes, Facebook ad, I do in fact need that $47 pair of lace-up boots.)
Clearly, acquiring all your news through social media can be a problem. And we’ve all been there. So if this is you, what can you do about it?
I’m not going to demonize social media sites here. Yes, they can cause issues for millennials, but it’s important to consider nuance. They certainly aren’t all bad. When used correctly social media sites can provide entertainment, free educational opportunities, and a wide diversity of opinions and cultures. The key is to gain awareness into your usage, and to use social media in healthy moderation. Here are three ways to help you begin balancing your news intake.
Ask yourself what you tend to engage in and what your patterns are. Are all your news stories coming strictly from social media? If so, ask yourself what happens after you receive the news. Do you feel well-versed in all sides of the topic and empowered to act? Or do you feel overwhelmed, overstimulated, and shut down?
Many millennials don’t know how to engage with the changing current events. They don’t know what to do about the news they read. Whatever you find out about your current patterns is good information to have. This sets the stage for building new habits.
Once you’ve figured out your baseline social media news patterns and how they make you feel, you can form new habits.
First, recognize that the stories you’re reading are likely biased and designed to get you to click. Take them with a grain of salt. Even if you’re still scrolling through social media news, you can calm the mental chatter that urgently tells you to click on everything.
You can also branch out to different news sources. Once a week, try catching up on the news through a different source than social media. You might find that you feel calmer listening to the news on the radio, say, or reading an online newspaper.
Finally, don’t be afraid to take social media breaks. Uninstall social media apps you know you’re prone to doomscroll through. You can take a break for just a day, or for a week or more if you want. I know it can feel scary to not have access to social media even for a short amount of time. But I promise you that you’ll be okay if you decide to power off for a while. You might even feel better.
If you want help navigating how to have a healthier relationship with social media news sources, consider therapy. I can help you learn how to balance your social media usage and stop the news cycle doomscroll. I’ll help you break the millennials’ news and social media cycle and guide you toward being able to step confidently into the world with the coping tools we come up with.
I’m ready if you are. Reach out today to schedule a complimentary consultation.
Danielle is an anxiety therapist. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.