How and Why You Should Be Actively Diversifying the News You Read
Kirsty Vass Payne examines the influence that news we read has on our everyday outlooks and the importance of diversifying its content.
Artwork by Holly Overs (Instagram: @heovers)
In recent months we have seen the Black Lives Matter movement be propelled front and centre. Many other social justice movements have also reappeared and gained prominence all over social media and in the news. There’s a lot to be said and frankly a lot to be learnt. A key step in this process of learning is diversifying the news you are reading in order to broaden your knowledge of issues facing people across the world, and the different opinions surrounding these. This can seem overwhelming, but it’s actually been found that those who diversify their news feed end up feeling less anxious about the world we live in. What’s to lose?
Firstly, it’s vital to consider where you currently get your information about what is happening in the world from. Each source of information comes with its own issues, biases and dilemmas and offers a wildly different perspective on current affairs. Therefore, taking in a wide variety of new sources and opinions from around the world is essential to be a well-informed person and protects you from falling victim to carefully picked facts and one sided arguments.
Think about considering some of the following:
Where does your information come from: do you get it from social media, newspapers, the TV, politicians or a combination of places? Who are the actors behind these sources: who owns the news company, what are the prevailing issues in the party that your politicians are part of, what are your friends’ political views, how free is the press coverage that you’re reading?. Are the voices you're reading diverse: do they come from different backgrounds, races, countries, political stances? Most importantly, how does all of the above influence what you read? Are you simply engaging with only British sources or voices from one end of the political spectrum?
With this in mind, remember the power of social media. For many (44% of adults in the UK) social media is a main source of news. However, with strong algorithms and easily shareable and addictive posts, it comes with its pitfalls. Often, social media will show you what you want to see, so if you love left wing news, the Telegraph is unlikely to pop up (especially since you probably didn’t like it) and vice versa. The notion of fake news is often talked about, yet most believe they are not victims of it. Yet, just the other week, many people I know shared posts incorrect posts about putting Palestine back on the map. We are all susceptible.
However, with this in mind social media is a great tool for learning more about news otherwise neglected. It is often a source of information and gathering for new and upcoming revolutionary, protest or social justice movements that are struggling to get mainstream media attention. These sorts of accounts are worth following. Social media is a vital component of our news intake nowadays but it is fundamental that you seek out factually correct, trustworthy sources and double check these by verifying through a quick research before you believe everything you read.
In addition, social media perpetuates the modern age issues of trending topics. Everyone had thoughts and feelings on BLM in June, but by late July social media was lacking the same vigor. In order to continue your engagement with really worthwhile causes, look at following activists and organisations associated with these movements on your accounts. This will keep you up to date with the current issues facing the causes you care about and more importantly stop them falling off your radar completely once people stop sharing posts.
We all fall into habits and like to listen to voices that we sympathise with. It’s hard to choose to read articles and opinions you don’t agree with and challenge your perspective or even find new sources to trust. Yet, it’s worth it if it causes you to actively listen and learn more about the wide variety of struggles in the world and how everyone (not just the people with matching opinions) feel about them.
So, challenge yourself to seek out some different opinions on Facebook; follow an opposing newspaper; engage with foreign sources of news; listen to podcasts that host debates from both sides of the political spectrum or try to find and listen to diverse voices within causes you already follow. Simply put, actively seek out new and varied sources of news however you wish. By taking simple actions such as those mentioned above, you will broaden your awareness thereby making yourself a better force for change in the world.