I’m a mature young adult because I use social media to get my news!

In the past few weeks, The Kony controversy has spread like wildfire across facebook, twitter, and other social media. You would have to live under a technology-free rock to have not heard about it. Or maybe, it took you a while to hear about it because you aren’t on facebook! While there remains controversy about the Invisible Children group and what effect the Kony video should have upon its viewers, and what action it should spark among its viewers, there is no question about the effectiveness that social media has had in proliferating the spread of the video and its message.

More importantly than the rapid spread of the video, is the overwhelming demographic of those who are spreading it: young adults. In this article, the difference in news sources used to watch and share the video is emphasized. Most teens and young adults watched the Kony video on facebook, while adults would be more likely to watch the video on youtube after learning about it on television from traditional news sources. Also, “the Internet was three times more important as a news-learning platform for young adults than traditional media such as television, newspapers, and radio”. Very few young adults learned about the video from these traditional news platforms (like TV news and newspapers) – showing a widened generational gap between how we get our news compared to how our parents do.

But what does this say about how our demographic uses social media? Like in boyd’s article, “Why Youth ❤ Social Media”, she established that social media had become the place for us to “hang out” instead of going to the mall. But, as we have domesticated the use of social media in everyday life, its use has gradually evolved for us, and it is now much more complex than being just another place where our social life exists. We now use social media as a platform for not only sharing news, but participating in activism as well.

By using social media as a place to enact change in the world, we are making a statement about the ability of youth to have an effect on issues that, pre social media, would have been out of our reach. We can know be educated about issues halfway across the word, for example in Africa, and find a way to connect  ourselves and get involved in some way. It’s almost as if, instead of making a statement about using a certain SNS (like the youth in Willet’s Bebo example) because we are old enough, we are making a statement about how we connect with each other and now how we get our news. We consciously choose which social media sites to use, and what information we want to share on them. We are sharing news in particular on facebook because we are mature enough to talk about important issues and know that we can make a difference. Perhaps we so quickly (and naturally) gravitate toward not using more traditional news outlets like television and news papers because we never became as comfortable with navigating them like we are with social network sites. We know facebook like the back of our hand, so where else would go to spread a message as quickly and effectively?

As social media and our generation have grown up simultaneously, social media’s ever (and rapidly) changing norms have hardly ever been noticed by us. We have grown together, growing pains and all, and the changes often seem seamless to us. It’s pretty much impossible to remember life without the internet as it is now, and we are one of the first generations to not ever know life without internet. Internet use has become such a natural part of our life, as we use it for socializing, getting news, school work, playing games, and so much more.  So now as we near adulthood, we use our social media to show that we are growing up, by using it in more adult ways. For example, we use social media as a platform to show our maturity in being able to fight for certain causes, like Invisible Children and the fight against Kony. Generations past may have held protests in person, but we now have the ability to protest from anywhere in the world, and we are using it to the fullest. We are making a statement, whether we are aware of it or not, about what social media has become to us: both a place for a social life and for our transition into adulthood.

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  1. nicoletteursini

     /  April 9, 2012

    I think you made a number of interesting remarks, especially towards the end when you mention, “Generations past may have held protests in person, but we now have the ability to protest from anywhere in the world.” Despite the convenience social media allows, I wonder if this new means of protesting is as powerful as going to the streets to demonstrate. Previously, effort was needed on the activists part for a protest to be successful, which was only given if the individual was invested in the cause. In contrast, some people today consider themselves social activists just because they clicked the retweet button on Twitter. Although the Kony2012 reached millions of people within a short period of time, I personally do not think that is not an effective way of measuring the success of a campaign. Now that the video has lost its viral quality, it will be interesting to see how many people participate in Invisible Children’s “Cover the Night” and if the organization can accomplish its goal of finding Kony by the end of 2012. If they do so, then I will be more inclined to believe that social media is an effective way to protest.

  2. I also agree with Nicole. This Kony video, though does bring awareness to the problem, just seems like a fad. The week when it was released, all I saw on my Facebook newsfeed were people posting the video on their profiles and saying how it was really important to watch it. But what happens when everyone has already seen the video? The hype just seemed to disappear, and it was onto the next YouTube sensation. It’s also interesting to think about what will happen in the future to news stories like this. Rather than putting them on the 6 o’clock news, will these issues be raised on more social media sites? People may say because they watch video’s like Kony, they know what the pressing matters are in the world, but are they just saying this because it’s the hip thing to do because of how much exposure it is getting through these social networks?

  3. I agree that people shared the Kony video with this feeling that they were partaking in something for the greater good and making a difference somehow. I agree with Nicolette that people garnered this sensation of clicking “retweet” or “share” made them instant activists. That aside, the most intriguing point I found in Joey’s post is danah boyd’s assertion that social networks are now places for people to convene and hangout, and now share news and views. It is interesting because I myself found out about the Kony video from my best friend’s Facebook posting. I talk to my best friend daily (using many mediums, as we do with our strongest connections, as we have discussed in class). My friend however did not mention the Kony video to me at all personally, yet she seemed passionate about the issue on social networking sites. I found this contradictory; how can she feel so passionate and active yet not mention it to me? I feel that social networks are more than just a place to hangout and express our views, it also a substitute for other mediums. This made me think that maybe I as a SNS user also assume that people can get their news and updates about on me and my life via my page(s). I’ve heard things like, “Oh, didn’t you see on Facebook? I am in Florida for Easter”. Kony and the activism surrounding it may seem one dimensional for this reason- people don’t feel they need to do something more to reiterate.

  4. Anthony Duffy

     /  April 11, 2012

    Instantly, the wildfire metaphor rings so true for the Kony 2012 campaign. Your opening remarks are exactly what Swartz refers to as spreadability. What made Kony 2012 particularly unique was that it was directly marketed as spreadable to the youth demographic. Just as discussed in class, the news media would not have been able to make Kony 2012 a viral message. Social media enabled a humanitarian video, not the most popular on YouTube, to become something beyond anything a news story could produce. I wonder if boyd had thought the youth at this “global mall” would tackle and share such intense and worldly topics. However, the power that the youth now have is incredibly magnified with the advent of social media. Presidential Election 2008, anyone? I completely agree with your notion of youth choosing social media out of comfort. It is also interesting how the idea of “growing up” comes into play. As the technology develops, it almost encourages us to develop and mature with its use. Now if only Jason Russell had that maturity. Great post!

  5. ljp282

     /  April 13, 2012

    Something I find especially interesting is what you allude to at the beginning of your post: if you aren’t on Facebook, it might have taken you a bit of time to hear about Kony 2012, whereas for those of us hooked to the social media platform, it was almost instantaneous. The Invisible Children campaign was not just inclusive of social media in its attempt to spread the word; it was solely based on the tactic of dispersion through social media. Obviously this leads to discussion offline as well, but I’m struck by their confidence in simply uploading a video and relying on users to do the rest of the work. I truly believe this represents quite a profound shift in these types of campaigns. Traditional media is no longer a necessary requirement of public relations campaigns, especially when the target audience might not ever pick up a newspaper anyway.

  6. Hi Caroline!
    I definitely agree with Nicolette and Evelina about the spreadability of the KONY2012 video and the technological affordances that social media has given us. While the issue of child soldiers has existed for the past couple of years, I feel like people are more aware of it because of social media. However, while it was easy and beneficial to raise awareness, this awareness does not necessarily equal action. In her comment, Nicolette pointed out that perhaps the technological affordances of social media has diminished the power of protesting and that perhaps a viral video is not an effective way of campaigning and I agree with that. I feel like we live in a society where we have so much information at our fingertips that the importance of one issue can get immediately swept away by another. It’s interesting to see how quickly a issue can gain popularity and how quickly it can become referred to as “old news” and simply tossed aside. How many newsfeeds are still covered in KONY related updates? I feel like if someone were to bring up KONY2012 right now, people would simply dismiss it because they are already aware of it and they see no need to retweet/share/reblog it again. While social media can definitely raise awareness about important news, I also feel like it can diminish the importance of it.

  7. jellybean1100

     /  April 17, 2012

    Caroline, I too agree that we use social media to stay in touch with the news. I know I get most of information on politics, celebrity gossip (Brangelina’s engagement!) and trends through twitter. I don’t even feel the need to visit major homepages anymore, as long as I follow that brand on twitter. There were a lot of great points made so far in the comments for this post. Miyorit, you raised a really great point. It’s crazy how fast the KONY2012 spread around twitter and facebook and now how fast people shake their heads at it. The importance of the campaign has been lost. I saw one of my facebook friends today who is in their late 50’s post a status containing the email she received from Change.org and Trayvon Martin’s parents thanking her for standing with them during these hard times. The comments underneath attacked the email for containing nothing but lies and being too manipulative. All in all, social media can bring awareness to a campaign incredibly fast but it can also ruin the validity behind it as well.

  8. Caroline, I agree that the way we as youth know to navigate social media sites is incredibly important to the impact they can have on any sort of activist campaign. As you pointed out, for most of us, online sources are our go-to sphere for news. And since we know it well, we know which information to filter out and which to engage with. I think that’s so key when we talk about slacktivism or any sort of campaign that is heavily supplemented by online media, like Kony 2012 or the It Gets Better campaign we talked about in class today. When these campaigns position themselves in the public sphere, they essentially give up a huge portion of control because the message they’re trying to spread gets slightly (or drastically) diluted and varied along each connecting point. I think of it like the game of Telephone, where the message gets distorted over time–and if we never fully understood the message to begin with, who knows what it’ll seem like to someone five links down the forwarding chain. If the message is clear and those who contribute mirror those sentiments, then the campaign has a much better chance of creating any real impact.

  9. esdiaz90

     /  April 18, 2012


    Your post mostly had a favorable tone about social media being a young person’s new pick-it sign. And It was quite refreshing, considering most of our class had mixed reviews as to whether social media really is making a difference in the socio-political sphere. Especially as it pertains to the viral sensation that was Kony 2012. By now, all the hoopla has died down. You don’t really see Kony related keywords too much on facebook or twitter and the second video Invisible Children released received only a fraction of the number of views the first one did. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t share it.

    But does that mean the issue has lost any significance for me? No. As a matter of fact, the video’s message still lingers in the back of my mind, as I’m sure it does for millions of other young people. But if I hadn’t seen that video, Kony and the LRA would’ve been non-existent for me. It wouldn’t have been an issue. Period. But social media made sure that it did become one, as the youth became aware of such a grave injustice.

    And I, for one, wholeheartedly believe that with awareness comes action. Was it not the student led protests of the vietnam war that had the most significant impact? Make young people aware of an issue and care about the issue, and some of them will act. It already started when the African Union recently amassed 5,000 soldiers to hunt down Kony. Social media will keep Kony 2012 alive until he is eventually captured and when he is, young people will realize that we have stumbled onto one of the greatest tools of activism of the 21st century.

  10. In particular, one part of this post stood out to me: “But, as we have domesticated the use of social media in everyday life, its use has gradually evolved for us, and it is now much more complex than being just another place where our social life exists. We now use social media as a platform for not only sharing news, but participating in activism as well.”

    I like that you pointed out how social media has evolved for us because that’s something some adults don’t quite understand. Part of the reason they think we’re on social media is because we have nowhere else to go, but as we grew older we matured and so did our use of the Internet and social media spaces. We are not only online because it’s a comfortable space for us, but also because it’s 1) a place for us to actually participate in worldly events, either more silently or actively and 2) it’s just fun. It’s hard to imagine for some people, but our generation actually just enjoys being online, plain and simple. There are parts to exploring the web that have purpose and meaning, yes, but sometimes we just want to get on Tumblr and look at some cool pictures. Not too much to ask, right? And you can’t do that anywhere else. We’re the first generation of our kind to be able to spend our time actually engaging with the content on the Internet, whether it’s for fun or not.

    This brings me back to my first part, which likewise relates to what you mentioned about activism in your post. We’ve grown up figuring out the Internet unlike any other group of individuals and as we’ve grown up with the Internet, we’ve literally also matured as the Internet has matured. We’ve figured out what sites engage us the most and how we can get more involved in being active through that site. A perfect example is It Gets Better, which we discussed in class yesterday. There is a huge onslaught of group involvement with IGB because it’s largely centered around user-produced content. It invites you to get involved via Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook. It feeds off of personal stories that in turn motivate depressed viewers to make healthy decisions as well as raise awareness for the problems its trying to fight. By simply watching the videos, as we discussed in class, you can become an activist. It’s a very important comment you made, about how media has evolved for us, and I think a site like IGB wouldn’t have been able to make it even 5 years ago. Our generation is the generation that sites like that rely on because we grew up with the media, unlike anybody else. We have matured and are now at the level to understand and participate in a site like IGB. 5 years ago IGB may have been successful, but not at the scale it is now. It needed us, and it needed us to mature.

  11. I found your blog post to be extremely relevant since I also use social media as more than just a place to “hang out”. I use social media as my daily source for news, shopping, general information, etc. I also agree with your argument that social media allows youth access to social issues they may never have had access to during the pre-social media environment. Whether youth fully understand the issues they are now given access to can be debated. In class, it was clear, that many felt most young adults that posted the Kony2012 video did not understand the history surrounding the issue or even the history of the organization that created the video. However, this lack of context is a characterization of social media that many youth have had to deal with. As we have discussed in class, context and message, are constantly being uprooted and put in circumstances that the original creator did not intend them to be put in. Regardless, I think youth will continue to use social media to spread information, but the fact that they might not understand the context behind these issues is highly concerning.

  12. zoiemancino

     /  April 19, 2012

    I think you brought up a lot of interesting points! That being said, I think there should be a distinction between spreading news and getting news. I do think that Twitter and Facebook are IMMENSELY effective in spreading news stories like KONY and Trayvon etc., however, I always go outside of Facebook and Twitter when I do want to immerse myself into a story and get the full picture, not the one-sentence headline that usually precedes a link to an article in Facebook or Twitter. I think it also makes sense that KONY spread like wildfire, because the Invisible Children employees are primarily young, tech-savvy young adults who are trying to appeal to our generation and sought to use social media for the purpose of dissemination of information..however, I can’t imagine the same wildfire spread of information happening for something like a GOP debate…that being said, I think certain stories will attract the likes of teenagers, and certain ones will continue to be more effective on television and newspapers.
    Like many people have established, you make a great point when you say “But, as we have domesticated the use of social media in everyday life, its use has gradually evolved for us, and it is now much more complex than being just another place where our social life exists. We now use social media as a platform for not only sharing news, but participating in activism as well” — it seems that Facebook has caught onto this trend when they established the feature of displaying which articles our friends have been reading. So while explosive activism stories like KONY will naturally always be forwarded by a young audience, Facebook has the potential to become a site also primarily driven by sharing news. It’ll be interesting to see if Facebook hires bloggers/journalists to write their own articles to feature instead of articles written and posted elsewhere.
    I love your point that social media is changing to reflect the changes we make from adolescence to adulthood, but I feel like social media networks might need to try a little harder to fully make TV and newspapers obsolete for our generation.

  13. I agree with all the previous commenters and your views as well. I think it’s interesting that you positively see our transition into adulthood holding hands with social media. I remember growing up to the lull of a news anchor feeding me important information about current events. I agree that social media gives us the power and choice in activism and that our social networks are a part of it. However, I also have doubts about how beneficial it is for the cause and for us. It is convenient to spread information and awareness from the comforts of our home. Compared to “old” forms of activism, which involved rallying and protesting, would we be able to do the same? We are the most active in social media because we have unlimited access to it in our society. Would we be able to give positive results to a cause as well as a second or third world country? If we were in a dangerous situation many would be startled by the violence around them. Social media may make us more socially and emotionally aware but it hinders us when we are called to action. We do not know how to act; there is no sense of collectivism, despite strong common beliefs in a cause, because in the end the Internet isolates us from each other. How could we trust the people we meet over a social networking site to be in a crowd with us protesting and defending?

  14. You raised a lot of great points here! I definitely agree with you on the whole age-gap drawing a fine line between the younger and older generation with social media and technology today. What’s interesting is how both my parents are now active facebook users where they actually discuss about people’s statuses and whether or not if I’ve seen their posts on their page, etc., on a regular basis. I see my parents as the older generation that’s really trying hard to keep up with this rapid technological advancement because although they are active facebook users and surf the net on a daily basis, the things they pick up on or the news that spread across their networks are different from the popular videos, latest youtube sensations, gossips, etc., that are all over our (the younger generation) newfeeds, twitters and such, despite the fact that they’re using the same internet along with the rest of us. I feel that there’s always going to be this “gap” existing between the two generations when it comes to what we get out of social media and how we use technology.

    • shiggins311

       /  April 20, 2012

      Great posts above, everyone. I really am intrigued by this idea that was put forth in the comment above me about generation gaps existing on websites. I, too have parents that are avid Facebook users, and they always ask me if I’ve seen so and so’s newest pictures or status. I’ve also heard my mother discuss her friend’s statuses and wall posts with her friends, offline. It’s a strange thing to watch because I’ve always associated such behavior on sites like Facebook with youth and new technology so when I see an older person using the sites and talking offline about content that is online, it feels very out of place. It makes me think that because younger people use the internet more, that we’re almost sort of age-centric when it comes to such behavior. But speaking back to the Kony point, I also saw many older people sharing that video on social networks; people that were alive and partaking in the Vietnam War protests. It makes me wonder if technology is turning not just the youth into the so-called “slacktivists”, but the older generations, too, who were alive to witness real protests that changed history.

  15. maddiechivi

     /  April 20, 2012

    Caroline, you brought up some great points. Thinking about how we grew up with media, makes our perception of it more distorted. When you said “growing pains and all” it made so much sense, how many bad things have happened over social media to us through the many years we grew up with it’s fast growup. Also, thinking about how it is our main news source is so true and made me think about something I have wondering for a while. Much of the news we hear is based on what our friends feel and think about certain political parties or what movements they find important. Do you guys think we bet a biased depiction of what to think? Bias in the media is something I think is so important. Sometime we learn things from status’ not backed by any link to an article. It’s somebodies take on an idea and we read it as true.Do you think that our “news source” (social media) is honestly that reliable? And do you think it makes us think a certain way? I always wonder..

    Also, a side note, with the Kony thing. My Dad new about it from the news not from social media. I found out from a facebook link. I could never sit in front of a TV watching the news because I find it boring and uninteresting. Part of my love for social media is that its interactive and you are listening and talking to friends, not listening to some old guy with a fake tan and weirdly white teeth.

  16. sn1014

     /  April 20, 2012

    Hi Caroline!
    Kony, the engagement of Brad and Angelina, Facebook buys Instagram- all recent news that went viral on social media sites. The original post brings up the fact that it was young adults that helped the message go viral. In my opinion, before the major outbreak of the use of social networking sites, people in general were much less informed (or took more time to be informed) about what was going on. I remember being in Elementary school and having to do these torturous “Current Event” projects that involved reading the newspaper once a week and summarizing an article. That was about all the news reading I would be doing. It was certainly uncool to watch the news, so that was not an option either.
    Now, my siblings find out about news quicker than my mother and I. As you mentioned, those who don’t log onto their Facebook as much might have taken longer to watch the video. That explains why when I brought up the video at the dinner table, I was stared down as if I were way too late already. I also felt behind when I was first introduced to “it gets better” in class. I am clearly not the most savy social media technology user, and it definitely affected the time it took me to find out about certain current events.
    Although we may be considered “slacktivists” by not working as hard to be activists as tradition entails (mentioned by Nicolette) it must be taken into consideration that raising awareness may be just as important as making a donation or protest. Watching the “It Gets Better” videos in class made me more aware of people’s personal stories. I may just be one person, but in the past, people had to strive to get their message out- even just to one person. To me, raising awareness for many of the issues going on is a main priority because awareness can lead to cooperation or donations that come willfully. Also, Me bringing up the news on my table spread the word verbally to both my parents who may have tuned out while watching the news, or threw away paper. News never just stops at one person. Discourse usually follows the news topic, and discourse is the main way to start reform.

  17. Great blog post and awesome responses by all (it always amazes me how we can never run out of things to say!)

    Issues like Kony2012 bring up an important facet of the Internet itself that sounds so simple but didn’t quite hit me until fairly recently: the Internet is FULL of information. Literally bursting at the seams, everywhere, in every fashion, for every topic, in every corner. Just exploding with things for us to engage with, learn from, entertain ourselves with, etc. I feel like one of our responsibilities as consumers of the digital age is to take full advantage of this and educate ourselves as much as we can. When issues like Kony2012 pop up, it seems like it should be second nature for us to open up a new tab after watching the video and find out more, and one of the main problems is that most people are too lazy to do so. Reposting a video and stamping a seal of approval on it may be the best way to start spreading information to our peers, but it is vital that we do our homework (as citizens of the world) if we actually wish to change something. As many of you have pointed out, the Internet is maturing right along with us as it never has before. It is our responsibility to take advantage of what is literally at most of our fingertips every instant (thank you smart phones.) Activism is without a doubt very different in this generation than others. As we’ve mentioned in class, SNS like twitter give us the capability of reaching potentially the entire world. Perhaps it’s young and naive of me, but it seems like maybe that does give us the ability to make a difference – we just have to make sure we go about it in the right manner. Using social network sites as a stepping stone of our news is a great idea, but it is absolutely necessary that we consume it in other ways as well. There is simply too much knowledge and too many sources available for us to not do so.

  18. Matt Gorman

     /  April 20, 2012

    Since there’s been so many comments on this already, I thought I’d try to take a slightly different turn on the issue. I definitely agree with the idea that people often share news stories or causes online as a sort of ‘badge’ to show how informed they are/what they care about/try to impress someone. With the example of the Kony video, I think it’d be interesting to see how many people even actually watched the whole thing (or any of it for that matter) as a factor of how many people shared it. Aside from issues of slacktivism though, I think because of the way we get our news from Twitter and Facebook, many of us are just reading headlines of articles and resharing them based on that rather than really reading what they say. I know that I’m definitely guilty of this from time to time, and I realize that I’m sharing information that I think is interesting and that other people might like, but because I didn’t read the actual article, I don’t really know what message might be getting across (and I’m probably not as informed as I should be). So basically, I think its important to consider that in the age of sharing headlines and causes to make a statement, people could possibly be less informed than ever, even though we have access to so much information.

  19. Really enjoyed reading this!! Very interesting points. I agree with you Caroline about why we choose to use social media for news. I don’t tend to use newspapers because, first off, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t have the patience to flip through it. Second of all, as you say, it is much easier for me to navigate. However, I don’t know if I can agree with what you were saying about young adults using social media to “making a statement.” I believe this fact is more subjective. I think in the case of KONY, the statement wasn’t very genuine (due to it’s very regurgitated nature). Facebook status after status. Like a game of telephone, the more it gets tossed around, the less affective the messages meaning. Since it wasn’t very authentic, it didn’t have much affect. But this may change depending on how the issue is approached.

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