Twitter creates growing news media culture

Desi Gillespie, Staff Reporter

No sooner had radio reached mainstream Western culture than television arrived in post-war America. The World Wide Web was created less than 40 years later, and smartphones less than 30 after that.

The marriage of the Internet and the smartphone has led to an advent of mass media in the form of social networking. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have now become integral facets of modern culture, their mobile apps now functioning as news distributors.

Twitter in particular has risen to the front of the pack in regard to news consumption. According to a 2018 study by AnchorFree for the Jack Myers Knowledge exchange, 82 percent of Gen Z and millenials include Twitter, among several other social media outlets, as a primary place to receive news.

Many celebrities and politicians utilize their Twitter presence to engage directly with their fans and constituents. Mainstream media also run Twitter accounts geared towards remaining relevant with younger audiences.

“I like Twitter because it’s easy access,” Sloan Norris, a junior majoring in accounting, said. “I just open up my Twitter app and because I follow a lot of pages—like CNN, local news, New York Times, etc.—I am able to click on a link that takes me straight to the news article.”

This younger audience is primarily composed of millenials and Gen Z consumers—put another way, a large majority of the UA student body. Students must make the conscious decision to avoid or partake in the new media culture created by Twitter.

Thirty-six percent of American 18-29-year-olds are Twitter users, according to a 2018 Pew Research Internet and Technology study. While some students like Norris enjoy using the new media outlet, others are more wary of Twitter as a source of news.

“I feel like [Twitter] provides me with content that I want to see,” Alex Tidwell, a senior majoring in mathematics said. “The timeline is non-linear, and you’re inundated with retweets from other people’s accounts. That’s one vehicle by which the news on Twitter gets spammy.”

The development of Twitter’s news distribution is another evolution in mass media. Students in the College of Communications and Information Science now learn about social media as a new channel of communication.

“So essentially, what I say about getting your news from any type of social media, Twitter especially, is that the best things about are also the worst things about it,” UA mass communication instructor Will Heath said. “Twitter allows you to filter out everything that doesn’t interest you, as well as everybody who doesn’t agree with you. That’s a good thing because it allows you to quickly access the things you care about.”

Heath then went on to say that this function allows consumers to bypass the tradition of watching the evening news, waiting through stories that don’t interest them in order to get to ones that do.

“Sometimes those viewpoints that you’re deliberately filtering out are things you should be exposing yourself to,” Heath said. “At the very least to help you understand what people who don’t agree with you think like, and why they think that way.”