The Santa Clara
September 27, 2018
On the first day of school my professor went around asking every student how they receive their news and attempt to stay up-to-date. Most students said they use a certain app on their phone—Apple News or ESPN. Often when students receive notifications from these apps, they will read the headline and occasionally click the story, only to stop reading after the first couple of paragraphs.
The problem with this system is that individuals are failing to comprehensively educate themselves on the news. Instead of deciding for ourselves, we are letting a computer algorithm tell us what news it thinks we should know. By only reading news that we are notified about, we are being subtly manipulated. I understand that these apps and notifications are easy and convenient, but they are not giving us the full picture.
It will soon be up to our generation to fix the broken partisan system we have today. That change must start with how we educate ourselves on current events. To begin, we have to modify how we educate ourselves on world affairs. Once that is done, we will be better equipped to tackle the challenge of polarization we are faced with.
Most news apps allow individuals to set their preferences so that they will only receive notifications from news sources they find interesting. For example, if you are more liberal, you might adjust your settings to get articles from left-leaning outlets like MSNBC. This means that most individuals read news from sources that share their same political opinion.
These apps are allowing us to create a niche media environment. Few individuals are getting the comprehensive understanding that was possible when people read through an actual physical copy of the newspaper.
Most worrisome is that this move away from looking at the news in its entirety gives people the false impression that they are up-to-date on the world. Even if they are on top of CNN’s news blasts about the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, they have not taken the time to listen to Fox News’ coverage of the events, thereby only exposing themselves to one side of the story.
Our generation’s tendencies toward these apps is furthering the already problematic trend of confirmation bias. People like to have what they believe repeated back to them, especially when it is being confirmed by a reputable source.
News apps are contributing to the growth of the partisan gap. By only listening to the side of the story that you agree with, you are not considering the other’s perspective. This is lowering our critical thinking skills, thus making our opinions less informed and less valid.
It is also important to note that neither the left nor the right are always completely correct. There is usually a valid point being made by each side and we would all benefit from listening to each other. After all, listening to half the argument is only being half informed.
Therefore, the first step to mending our system is to stop being a passive consumer. Actively watch and follow CNN, The New York Times and The Mercury News but also keep up-to-date with Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, National Review and local conservative papers. It is also essential that we read articles in their entirety and educate ourselves on a variety of topics—not just the ones our phones notify us about.
Our generation is becoming active members of society at a very crucial time in our political climate. The generation above us has created circumstances contributing to a very polarized society with niche media that allows for far too much confirmation bias and one-sided thinking.
With smear campaigns that pit the other side as the enemy, and gerrymandering that allow for primary campaigns to push politicians farther to extreme left or right in order to win these fixed districts, it is no wonder that our society has come to this.
It is up to our generation to bridge that gap and pull our country back together again. While we are not yet in a position to change campaign laws or write unifying policy yet, we are in a position to educate ourselves on both sides of the argument.
Sahale Greenwood is a sophomore political science and communication major