Words by: Gabriela Fannia Art by: Sama Harris
Can you think of a day that you’re not a consumer of news? If you’re a regular browser of Facebook and Instagram (which I’m sure you are), you most definitely are consuming news stories every single day. You may or not may have noticed, but the way stories are presented to us through the digital-scape is… hectic, to say the least.
News stories are fast and often furious. Why? Because of the fast-paced media environment that bombards us with new things and is capable of putting us into emotional unrest. It excites us, stirs us up, or leaves us shaking (sometimes all at the same time).
Being informed on current affairs is important, but now just being informed is simply not enough. Major social events, such as Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s trial or the overturning of Roe v Wade, show how news stories can move people in a way that pushes them to make rash decisions. Have you ever felt that intense pressure on social media to take sides and voice your opinion? It challenges us: what are you going to do about it? It gets to a point that not having strong opinions or not taking part in that protest feels unsettling or wrong.
I think these past few eventful years shed light on an underlying issue that not enough people talk about: the power of social media movements. At best, they help spread awareness for important causes like LGBTQ+ rights. Even if it was something that happened on the other side of the world, stories will make their way onto your news feed for your fingertips to double-tap, share or comment on. At worst, they are irresistibly argumentative, getting us stirred up and joining a heated comments section about the fate of Australian cows amid the risk of foot and mouth disease… because we love our steaks, am I right? After the keyboard warriors die down, we start asking ourselves, ‘why was I so into that?’, and then, well, it all repeats. That’s right, social media movements and their trends have a vicious cycle, and no one is immune to it.
The 24/7 news cycle sparks literal fireworks. It leads us to form rash opinions on small embers of information, forcing us to choose between two sides of an argument. Are you on Depp’s side or Heard’s side? Then, it gives us the immense urge to make our thoughts visible and tell the public where we stand, making definitive decisions without room for nuance. And suddenly, these fleeting social media news stories disappear quickly, when everyone is no longer looking. Yes, they give an impactful bang and are entertaining, but none of them are truly long-lasting.
I believe keystone events such as the BLM movement and Roe v Wade deserve a longer lifespan within our casual conversations. Although their social media trends like a black tile or #MeToo might fade away, it doesn’t mean the timer stops for us to keep learning and investigating. The end of a social media trend shouldn’t mark the end of your curiosity, but rather spark a commitment to be open-minded towards important sociocultural and political issues.
I learned that we can no longer be mere observers of an event, because news trends entice us to be part of it. They now want us to do so much more than just receive facts and figures. But we don’t just want to be a part of their fleeting spectacle, we want to effect real change. Although it’s snazzy to be on top of social media trends, we can’t let them merely appease our short attention spans.
(And don’t worry, you don’t have to reply to that comment. The cows will be just fine.)