News, media, and influencers. How do you digest your information?
We live in the age with advance rapid information technology, equipped with computers and mobile devices capable of tuning into television channels, commentary content and other types of specialized media. It can be overwhelming and at times confusing to acquire a complete understanding of a single topic. With the ability to access diverse sources of information, I have become more aware on how I choose to gather the news and information in an effort to dissect the subject fed to me and try my best to reach my own conclusions.
The rise of opinion leaders.
The increase in skepticism towards the traditional media has created the grounds for the rise of opinion leaders, better known as influencers. Scholars have used a concept called the ‘two-step flow of communication’ to describe this phenomena. It suggests that the flow of information and influence from the mass media to their audiences involves two steps: from the traditional media down to the individuals (i.e., the opinion leaders) and from them to the public (Weimann, G. 2015). While this theory has its share of criticism, there are many aspects of it that are on par with what we are currently experiencing online. A very helpful video by Mr. Sinn shares that “in our age where there is an increase of distrust in the media, more people are getting their news from people they trust”. I could not agree more, personally I have subscribed to many channels that offer coverage of the news and commentary and in some cases they live stream thus opening the door for a discussion between the viewers and the opinion leader. Unlike traditional media where the discussion is held between the news anchors or experts.
When people can rely on their own knowledge and experience in forming opinions, even such a massive effort (from mass media) to effect change does not work. — Vanderwicken (1995). Harvard Business Review.
Gathering the news and sharing them.
As I looked at my news feeds on social media, I thought deeply about how I was engaging in the two-step flow of communication by subscribing, commenting and reacting to influencers online. It led me to question: why am I doing this? After much thought I remembered the many times mass media networks shared a story that was contentious, unfair, and inaccurate or felt like propaganda for a particular institution rather than the actual facts. I wondered if others felt the same, so I questioned my friends and coworkers about how they gather the news and if they share the news. Most replied with the same sentiment and many opted to not actively search for the ‘news’ altogether.
It is interesting to see how mass media can influence how we choose to digest our information, even if it means disconnecting completely. Does your news-gathering routine look like the two-step flow as well?