Turn to the person next to you and ask them if they know if the iPhone 7 will have a headphone jack.
Now, ask that same person if they know what Aleppo is.
If they got the second question wrong tell them not to sweat it; in a recent interview, it was revealed that even Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson didn’t know about Aleppo. And while that’s an issue on many levels, the most alarming part was that after Johnson’s gaffe, Aleppo was trending on the internet. The Syrian city that has been the epicenter of the refugee crisis for years got mass media attention after an embarrassing interview — not because that same week, chlorine bombs were dropped on refugee sites.
It’s not as if the Syrian crisis has been a secret that hasn’t been covered by the news media over the last five years. And if you’re not running for president, you aren’t obligated to know about Syria, whereas the newest iPhone has a more direct impact on your immediate life. But this recent media activity raises the question: To what extent is a consumer responsible to educate themselves through media?
In a presidential election year, media coverage escalates across the board with domestic political coverage. People who wouldn’t typically partake in consuming political news pay more attention to headlines, reports, links and other sources of media. Consequentially, outlets that don’t typically produce political content do, catering to an increased demand for this type of content.
A recent study by the Pew Research Center showed that 62 percent of Americans get their news from social media. Sixty-six percent of Facebook users and 59 percent of Twitter users get news from these sites.
The headline you briefly skimmed over from a link your best friend from second grade who now lives five states over posted shouldn’t be what you rely on to get information about the world. And it definitely shouldn’t be the main influence on how you vote in the upcoming presidential election.
News has always been biased and unreliable — that’s not an outcome of social media. However, when you add the speed and algorithms of social media and the internet into the mix, media gains a new kind of bias.
The vicious cycle of reading a physical representation of the beliefs you already have is idle and fruitless. Conservatives watch Fox News to hear what they already believe and liberals watch MSNBC to do the same. You get nowhere if you’re just consuming the coverage that agrees with what you thought before you sought out new information.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote about newspapers, “For two cents the voter buys his politics, prejudices, and philosophy.” The price may have changed over the decades, but the principle remains the same. If you only educate yourself with publications congruent with your own partisanship, you’re not going to get anywhere.
Rebecca Klar is a senior majoring in English.