Since the 2016 election tallies came in a coupla weeks ago, lotsa peeps have been tryna point fingers at someone or something to lay the blame (or the credit) for what happened. The “media” has been everyone’s favorite punching bag of late for obvious reasons, partly cuz the Fourth Estate always catches flak whenever things go wrong and/or alt-right, but mostly cuz it’s always easier to shoot the messenger than it is to actually hear the message, amirite?
While Facebook emerged as the nation’s preeminent news source for a whole heck of alotta Americans during the past election cycle, the social media-fueled information bubble that so many of us settled into was totes comforting until it burst into a million little pieces. And by a million little pieces, I mean a million shards of bloodied broken glass or a million strips of white nationalist confetti, depending on your proclivities. Turns out a steady diet of confirmation bias might’ve been deloycious at the time, but we now know that it’s loaded with empty calories and laden with a buncha other stuff that’s probably not good for us.
It would be easy to blame and/or credit the olds for fanning the flames of new media hysteria, thanks to the countless hours they spent over the past 18 months sharing and liking and commenting on Facebook. Only instead of posting a heart-eyed smiley face emoji in response to a super-kawaii pic of your kids or your dog, your mother-in-law posted on your wall a link to a Breitbart article or an Occupy Democrats video, depending on her and your oppositional proclivities, of course.
The cottage industry known as Fake News may have awoken as a media giant overnight, but it’s too simple and ultimately futile to solely blame and/or credit the potent cocktails served up by a cadre of new skool yellow journalists for your November hangover. We gotta ask ourselves, Did we learn nothing from all of those solicitous e-mails from that nice Nigerian prince who was only asking for some help to move his fortune to a more stable economy?
The group that’s probably the least to blame for the current state of media malaise that we’re living through is the Millennials, who have somehow bypassed much of the information echo chamber that older cohorts seem to be trapped in nowadays. Obvs, peeps ages 18 to 34 aren’t a monolith and don’t consume media as such, but for the sake of grossly overgeneralized argument, let’s pretend that they are and that they do. As a diverse and authentically digitally native generation, Millennials have grown up to be innately aware of what’s true and what’s merely truth-y, especially when it comes to online content. Ask most Millennials to tell you the difference between getting trolled and being pwned, and after their eyes settle from rolling to the back of the heads, they’ll probably tell you that the difference lies with intent.
Despite stereotypes to the contrary, Millennials aren’t as reliant on the Interwebz for news and information, fake or otherwise, as the olds or the old skool media would like to think they are. While an overwhelming majority of Millennials own smartphones (90%) and about half of them own tablets, only a slight majority (51%) say they are online most or all of the day, according to a study conducted by the American Press Institute and the Associated Press. And although social channels play an enormous role in Millennials’ news-gathering habits, research revealed that their consumption of online news isn’t strictly passive or random. Millennials actively navigate and make choices about which sources in their social media feeds are considered reliable, you know, by fact-checking and stuff. #letmegooglethatforyou
And while older generations are typically exposed to a narrow range of news and opinions that show and tell us only what we want to see and hear on social media (whether by design or by algorithm), Millennials may have avoided much of the same polarizing effects: 70% of adults ages 18 to 34 surveyed in the API/AP study said their social media feeds are comprised of diverse viewpoints that are evenly mixed between those similar to and different from their own. And nearly three-quarters of those exposed to different views (73%) report they investigate others’ opinions at least some of the time—with a quarter saying they do it always or often.
So the next time a “news” article comes across your newsfeed that seems too good and/or too bad to be true, it’s worthwhile to check in with your favorite Millennial to see if it is.