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We live in a world where news is at our fingertips, everywhere we go. It’s transcended mere newspapers, radio, and TV: we get updates online, from specific websites and of course from social networking.

This got me wondering: what if we only got news from social media?  What would we miss out on? How effective is relying on retweets and such to spread the word? And furthermore, which feeds are best for the all-important headlines?

So I thought I’d try out an experiment: Keep away from news programs on the TV. Don’t scout the Internet for the latest headlines. Just look at social media. Essentially, I’d keep track of news solely via Facebook and Twitter whilst on a short holiday. Here’s how I got on.

Decisions to be Made

Plymouth Lighthouse

Cornwall in the UK. It’s a beautiful place. Mobile reception, including Wi-Fi, is rubbish, however.

That certainly hampers my plan. Fortunately, I can find isolated areas of 3G in shops and restaurants, and, in the lodge where I’m staying, there’s one spot on the couch where you can get glimmers of Wi-Fi if you keep your fingers crossed.

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Right at the start of the experiment, I had to decide what to do about links: by clicking on a link on Facebook, for example, I’d be redirected to a news site, which I was trying to avoid.

Nonetheless, that’s a primary way news is spread on social media, essentially just pushing selected articles. But Facebook is looking to publish its own news (some mull over the possibility that this will be a good thing How Facebook Is Changing News Journalism – For The Better How Facebook Is Changing News Journalism – For The Better News outlets are considering publishing stories straight to Facebook. It's easy to be cynical. But this change could be a good thing – for readers and journalists. Read More ; the majority think otherwise Facebook Wants to Be the News Site of the Future, and That's Awful Facebook Wants to Be the News Site of the Future, and That's Awful Getting publishers on board could potentially bring Facebook's nightmarish vision to a whole new level. It's a horrible idea. Horrible for the Internet, and even worse for journalism. Here's why. Read More .), so in that case, the complete story would, presumably, be published on the social network.

Twitter and Facebook function very differently, though. Links are widespread on both, but you can’t honestly expect the full story delivered in 140 characters. When it comes to Facebook, I’ve seen profile updates that are longer than War and Peace. Therefore, I’d not click on links on Facebook, but would via Twitter – but importantly not check both at the same time, so as not to blur the results.

You’d be surprised by how much clickbait there is on Facebook, especially if you ‘like’ random pages about enjoying a full English breakfast or whatever. Don’t get me wrong: Twitter’s no stranger to clickbait – the movie plots Watch What YOU Want With a Clickbait Movie Plot Watch What YOU Want With a Clickbait Movie Plot #ClickBaitAMovie began trending on Twitter. What happened next will shock you. Read More and novel synopses The 10 Best #ClickbaitBooks On Twitter. Number 7 Is Amazing. The 10 Best #ClickbaitBooks On Twitter. Number 7 Is Amazing. Twitter users recently turned the plots of their favorite books into clickbait, and you won't believe what happened next... Read More prove this – but if you’re relying solely on your Facebook feed for news, you don’t miss anything by not clicking on articles assuring you that, “Number 7 will amaze you.”

Whether something constitutes as news naturally depends on your interests, but there are certainly things that remain universal – namely human interest tragedies, security, and politics. These would be the focus of my news-gathering… as well as technology because this is MakeUseOf after all.

News That Reached Me Through Social Media

Cornwall Sunset

Not much happens. Not really. If you ignore celebrity stories, body-shaming Fat Shaming Online: Why All The Hate on Fat People? Fat Shaming Online: Why All The Hate on Fat People? Being a fat person on the Internet opens you up to a lot of hate, as scrolling through the comments section of any YouTuber's videos will show you. Why? Read More , and TV schedules, news outlets only have a couple of thoroughly interesting items a day.

UK-wide news was often stumbled upon without much further explanation. Recently-elected Labour political leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for example, stood silently but respectfully during the national anthem. Because he wasn’t seemingly pleading with God to save the Queen, he was thought disgraceful by mass media.

No, seriously.

Without following links, I simply had to gather what all the commotion was about. It’s a double-edged sword. Without reading more from The Daily Mail, I was saved from any bias; then again, without the full details, I could easily jump to conclusions myself without knowing the whole story.

For all I knew, Corbyn could’ve instead been quoting Salmand Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses under his breath and kicking a puppy at the same time, and I would’ve just defended him because I believed he looked respectful.

Though it was released before I left for Cornwall, Windows 10 remained an issue 10 Compelling Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 10 10 Compelling Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 10 Windows 10 is coming on July 29. Is it worth upgrading for free? If you are looking forward to Cortana, state of the art gaming, or better support for hybrid devices - yes, definitely! And... Read More across social networking, largely due to downloading problems (a shame because it’ll be the last ever Windows 10 Is the Last Version of Windows. Ever. Windows 10 Is the Last Version of Windows. Ever. Microsoft is sick of you not upgrading, and has a solution: Windows 10 will be the final "version" of Windows. Ever. This could mean that you will never again have to buy Windows. Read More ). When it came to people moaning about hours waiting for their update to take effect, my feeds were far from lacking.

MakeUseOf‘s social updates fortunately let me know that iOS 9 What's New in iOS 9? What's New in iOS 9? Want to know what features your iPhone will be getting with the release of iOS 9 in September? Curious as to whether your device will be compatible? You're in the right place. Read More was imminent – my own Apple device has yet to inform me of this fact. As I typically wait for kinks to be ironed out before downloading, any ignorance of this wouldn’t have majorly affected me, but it was nonetheless good to know others were testing out a technological improvement while I was desperately seeking 3G.

When it comes to human tragedy stories, Syrian refugees continued to get their fair share of space on my feeds, and rightly so. Alas, not much actual news came from this story; merely assurances that certain countries would take on so many people fleeing the war-torn country, and opinion pieces about why “(insert country) is wrong/right to help out/turn their backs on the situation”.

News I Missed

Surprisingly enough, I missed quite a bit of entertainment news – not much I particularly cared about, but still newsworthy mulling over celebrity matters, including some tosh about Top Gear. Coincidentally, I later found out that Facebook would be introducing a ‘dislike’ button Facebook Is Working on a Dislike Button, Pay to Replay Snapchat Snaps... [Tech News Digest] Facebook Is Working on a Dislike Button, Pay to Replay Snapchat Snaps... [Tech News Digest] Facebook likes Dislike buttons, Snapchat adds new features, Project Morpheus morphs into PlayStation VR, Square and Twitter help you donate to politicians, and Rockstar Games hates the BBC. Read More (and no, I don’t know how I missed that when searching on social networks).

I also was unaware of Ahmed Mohammed’s unjust arrest How to Help #IStandWithAhmed and Keep Kids Creating [Who Won the Internet This Week?] How to Help #IStandWithAhmed and Keep Kids Creating [Who Won the Internet This Week?] An innocent 14-year-old geek was discriminated against. And the entire might of the online world stood behind him, with other geeks leading the way. Read More until I saw Barack Obama’s now-famous tweet just as I got home. Despite frequent updates online after the refugee crisis, I didn’t hear about Hungary’s emergency plea, and Croatia closing its borders.

I was annoyed to miss out on the Battle of Britain fly-over, which saw four Spitfires and two Hurricanes arc across the sky of London in remembrance of the campaign’s 75th anniversary.

More worryingly, I didn’t hear the warning from Andrew Parker, head of MI5, that a technological terrorist threat is the “most serious threat Britain faces in security terms,” and that the highest number of terrorist plots in his 32-year history with the Security Services have been foiled this year.

How to Make Social Media More Effective

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Okay, so how can you make Facebook and Twitter better at giving you your fix of news?

Naturally, I can’t suggest feeds tailored for your specific tastes, but there are some big names in news-delivery that you must follow:

  • Reuters (on Twitter and Facebook): You know Reuters, right? Created in the 1800s, it’s an international news agency that’s based in London but delivers news worldwide. There will always be controversies and accusations of censorship and bias Why The Next 10 Years Looks Bad for Internet Censorship Why The Next 10 Years Looks Bad for Internet Censorship Although denizens of the world are learning more about censorship and learning new ways to counteract it, the outlook for the future of Internet freedom isn't looking good. Read More when it comes to news – Reuters’ reporting of climate change has come under fire numerous times – but their financial, religious, and business coverage is nevertheless strong.
  • BBC News (World) (on Twitter): The BBC has numerous factions of news reporting, including feeds for the World Service, Entertainment, and Sport, but this international feed is a great place to find a mix of headlines and discussion pieces.
  • BBC News (on Facebook): Similar items can be found on this Facebook profile, though it’s naturally free of retweets! The BBC is world-renowned for its aim to be unbiased, and one of the best things about this timeline is the corporation’s (occasionally tongue-in-cheek) interaction with readers. It’s got over 23 million ‘likes’.
  • The Associated Press (on Twitter and Facebook): Just like the BBC, AP has many feeds focusing on different subjects; this is a good place to start anyway. It’s updated very regularly, 24/7.
  • CNN International (on Twitter and Facebook): You can question CNN’s reporting, but the rolling news network does throw out a lot of information no matter what the subject. Some news is shocking, while other items are more whimsical or even relaxing Take A Break: 10 Websites To Help You Relax For Two Minutes Take A Break: 10 Websites To Help You Relax For Two Minutes It's incredibly important to take the time to relax occasionally. It doesn't do anyone any good to constantly be ON, to be working, to be stressed by the rigors of everyday life. In the same... Read More .
  • Breaking News (on Twitter): This is an aggregate news feed, so it cherry-picks the latest articles from all over the place, including Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg Business.
  • MakeUseOf (on Twitter and Facebook): We like to think you get your best technology news here…

Social media can spread the word like nothing else. Facebook and Twitter can get the news out to millions worldwide. You just need to follow and ‘like’ the right networks.

Who do you follow to get the best news updates?

Image Credits: Like by Thomas Angermann

  1. fcd76218
    October 17, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    "Without reading more from The Daily Mail, I was saved from any bias"
    Of course, any news you get from social media is totally without bias?

    • Philip Bates
      October 30, 2015 at 11:40 am

      Depends, really. That sentence should probably have read “Without reading more from The Daily Mail, I was saved from *some* bias", admittedly. It does depends on whether the news is posted with a friend's comments accompanying it: generally, though, news stories only show the first few sentences on Facebook, for instance, so the rest, including much bias, is cut.

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