24 Feb 15
Written by Kelcie Hartrich

Extra! Extra! Social Media is the Millennial’s News Source

Extra! Extra! 2

Do you ever find yourself scrolling through Twitter or Facebook and notice everyone posting about the same issues? Then immediately you find yourself refreshing your feed to see what else people are going to post about the topic? Like an addiction, you just can’t stop digging from post-to-post.  I have been there too… Especially when Kim Kardashian “broke the internet” or when Ebola broke-out in America.  

@mrdavehill: Why is everyone making a big deal about Kim Kardashian’s naked pictures? Isn’t that how this whole nightmare started in the first place?

@garyjanetti: American Horror Story: Ebola

 @CKoesser: Sitting at the doctor’s office. Hope I don’t catch Ebola or something.

Due to the prominence of social media in this Millennial era, many issues become the sole subject of every media outlet as soon as it’s leaked. As a result, I decided to follow my Millennial instinct and dig a little deeper into the origins of this exaggeration and obsession over issues in the media. I was surprised to find myself going all the way back to 1890. Many of you are probably thinking: this girl is taking this way too far! And I have to admit, you’re probably right, but let me explain myself:

During these ancient, non-iPhone days, people relied on word-of-mouth and newspapers for their information. When one clever newspaper owner wanted to increase his sales, he decided to take the Spanish-American War and completely dramatize it: a phenomenon soon-to-be known as yellow journalism. The newspapers featured grotesque illustrations of blown-up ships and dismembered bodies that were not quite realistic. The dramatic headlines and exaggerated illustrations of the war sold many newspapers, and more importantly, it kept people wanting more. Sound familiar? This tactic took the American newsrooms by storm.

One hundred and twenty-five years later, not much has changed. Media creators know that drama sells—the scarier and bigger the issue, the better. “If it bleeds, it leads,” is often a publications mantra.

Studies show that in 2015, the average person will consume 15.5 hours of media per day. This constant obsession with media significantly effects our perceptions and decision-making, is known as the familiarity principal: the more you see, the more you believe –and the more it spreads.

Consider Ebloa: how often have you seen posts about this scary disease? My guess is a lot. The horrific virus has nearly become a joke on social media.  I have heard friends with a simple cold say, “Oh my God, I think I have Ebola!” Even American news channels continue to document the virus with the most dramatic tone during special segments.  Recently, British comedian, Russell Howard, explained the difference between the U.S. coverage and U.K. coverage of Ebola.  The explanation was surprising–American news coverage was absurdly exaggerated in comparison to Europe’s.

In America, we were all terrified that the virus was going to be the pandemic to wipe out humankind, as we know it.  Across the pond, news reports remain factual, calm, and rational.  The uproar due to, and through the media are proof of the success of yellow journalism and have ultimately climaxed our generation’s obsession over drama.  These dramatic outbursts are not just over strange viruses, but over anything really: Kim Kardashian, the release of the iPhone 6, Katy Perry’s Super Bowl performance and more.

Next time you’re scrolling through your news feed and every other person starts obsessively posting about an issue, be wary.  It is important to be a critical consumer in our increasingly virtual world.  Social media is an extremely powerful, valuable, and innovative tool, but it also can be incredibly deceptive.  Stop and think before you hop on the hashtag bandwagon!





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Photos Courtesy of UW-Madison Archives

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