An Alarming Number Of People Rely On Social Media For News

Here's one easy way to break the habit.

28/05/2016 6:25 AM AEST | Updated 28/05/2016 6:26 AM AEST
Albert Gea / Reuters
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears below an illustration showing how his social network connects the world.

You shouldn't get all of your news from Facebook.

This has never been more apparent than in recent weeks, when the social network's been slammed for a supposed anti-conservative bias in its "Trending Topics," where popular news stories of the day are presented to readers. But 66 percent of people who have Facebook accounts use the site for news, Pew Research Center reported Thursday, and 64 percent of people who get news on social media say they get it only from one site -- "most commonly Facebook."

This is not good news.

It's easy to believe you're getting diverse perspectives when you see stories on Facebook. You're connected not just to many of your friends, but also to friends of friends, interesting celebrities and publications you "like." 

But Facebook shows you what it thinks you'll be interested inThe social network pays attention to what you interact with, what your friends share and comment on, and overall reactions to a piece of content, lumping all of these factors into an algorithm that serves you items you're likely to engage with. It's a simple matter of business: Facebook wants you coming back, so it wants to show you things you'll enjoy.

Critics have alleged this helps form echo chambers. There's no better illustration of what that means than a recent Wall Street Journal interactive feature juxtaposing liberal and conservative News Feeds

You're free to ingest the news however you see fit. But you might consider the last time an article, photograph or video really impacted your world view. Perhaps it was a story you never could have imagined you'd be interested in to begin with?

That in mind, we'd like to recommend a pretty basic feature on your smartphone: A folder filled with publications you enjoy. 

Making a news folder on your iPhone is one easy way to avoid getting all your information from Facebook.

We know: This is very Smartphone 101. Maybe you did this years ago when you first got your device. Do it again and actually use the folder!

You don't need to download any apps, either. If you're on a website you like, add it to your iPhone home screen by tapping the little icon that shows an arrow shooting forward from a rectangle. Then tap "add to home screen."

If you're using Chrome on an Android device, tap the three little dots on the upper right hand corner and tap "add to home screen."

Sure, this isn't as easy as mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. Of course the social network is itself a great way to discover important articles, too. But any good media diet is diverse: Take it upon yourself to see what's going on outside of your News Feed.

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