While some are hanging onto their ink and paper, print newspapers are a fading tradition. As the next generation comes of age, the trend only promises to escalate.
A recent survey of Generation Z—often dubbed “digital natives”—found that only 21 percent report getting their news from newspapers at least once a week. In fact, it was the least popular medium, behind YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TV news, Snapchat, TikTok, and Reddit. The news media landscape is clearly changing—and it’s changing fast.
There’s some theoretical good in the rise of social media as a news source. We’re connected to current events across the globe in an unprecedented way, with every news outlet at our fingertips instantaneously. We also have a direct line of communication between journalists and readers in the form of sending a tweet, or leaving a comment. But, for what good the ultra-connected age has brought, it has had far more bizarre and dangerous consequences.
For one, social media news consumers are adept at carving out echo chambers, whether consciously or not. We follow those with whom we agree, and in the process we teach algorithms our likes and dislikes. Feedback loops of confirmation abound, as Big Tech platforms nail down our habits and learn us better than we know ourselves. We unintentionally find ourselves isolated in ideological niches, more polarized and disconnected from inhabitants of other Twitter islands than ever before.
The barrier of screens between human beings has also enabled people to live as digital caricatures of themselves. The ability to hide behind an avatar or a screen name erodes our humanity and enables users to treat others in ways they never would face-to-face. This, of course, gives rise to the Twitter mob, which, despite being a small outraged minority, now wields the power to demand that celebrities and corporations atone for any slight transgression of political correctness.
But perhaps the most frightening and intimate consequence of social media becoming the new newspaper is its impact on mental health. It’s not the news that we’re all addicted to but the apps developed to hack our brain’s reward system. But the hyper-connectivity of the modern age also enables us to be plugged in to the worst news from every corner of the globe. We’re bombarded constantly with tragedy and loss, and we’re rendered helpless as the weight of the world falls onto our shoulders.
The digital landscape is a developing and often disturbing place. As social media news continues to grow and take over traditional media outlets, the future looks bleak. Big Tech holds the keys to the public forum, and censorship runs awry as the tension between free press and private platforms grow. As our culture becomes increasingly entangled in the inter-webs, we must remember that progress is not always for the better.
Twitter is the new newspaper—and we’re certainly worse off for it. But the power still remains with the consumer to push back against monopolistic tech empires. So, embrace alternative apps, outlets, and mediums. We must critically engage with our own consumption to reclaim the future of news—and with it our mental wellbeing and our very humanity, lest we be reduced to mere Twitter avatars.
Rikki Schlott is a writer and student based in New York City. As a young free speech activist, her writing chronicles the rise of illiberalism from a Generation Z perspective. Schlott also works for The Megyn Kelly Show and has been published by The Daily Wire and The Conservative Review.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.