20 October 2020
Democratic Discussions and News on Instagram
The process of checking news has changed as societies have progressed over time. Years ago, people were dependent on newspapers, and would look forward to reading the paper in the mornings. That slowly changed to becoming dependent on news channels and listening to updates on television. Over the last few years, news has evolved further, and people now use social media as a news source, as well. One of the main social network platforms that is used as a news source is Instagram. Instagram has many ways of spreading news, through live streams, their stories feature, and posts. It allows for discussions among people, in a democratic way, and also opens conversations about recent news. Instagram has become a central news source for many people, and functions as a useful, democratic space to receive news and converse about it with others around the world.
Instagram allows for everyone, with an account, to have equal rights to view any public content. Users also have the ability to create content as they wish, allowing for them to share news with others, share links to news stories, and share what they think about any topic. As a part of this democracy, people are able to respond to posts, stories, or other information that someone shares. This results in opening many conversations about news and the world’s current events. One main reason people are attracted to Instagram as a news source is the convenience, and the ability to post something quickly or in real time (Vazquez-Herrero et al. 2). The visual aspect attracts viewers as well, along with short captions or videos (“Instagram ‘will overtake Twitter’”). This adds to the viewer experience of reading news stories due to being able to read a news story quickly and then continue on doing something else. People have taken these features on Instagram and used them to spread important information about necessary topics. One example of this is how people have used this platform to carry forward social justice movements. This includes Black Lives Matter, as users share information about shootings, protests, and share links for where to donate. Instagram not only allows for people to share and spread information, but also to share their own stories. When someone experiences something personally, they are able to share their story immediately with the world through an Instagram post, story, or live video.
This social media platform operates with millions of users around the world. Instagram allows for people around the world to connect and speak to each other about important topics. This removes the limitation of people not being able to reach wide demographics. While this is a very beneficial feature, Instagram often filters what is seen on people’s home feeds. This means that, due to the algorithm, Instagram shows people posts that are similar to other posts they like or often view. This leads to echo chambers, which are spaces where people view stories that confirm what they believe or agree with (Bishop). While this appears to be a barrier in receiving different types of news, there are several alternative ways for people to find news on Instagram. A few different ways people discover news are through people they follow who share stories, by searching hashtags, and by following influential accounts which share important information. These influential accounts may include news channel accounts, celebrities, critics, or journalists.
While Instagram has many benefits and positive aspects as a news source, there are also issues concerning it. For many people, accuracy is a concern due to viewing news stories that are not accurate or objective (Shearer and Matsa). While it is beneficial for people to have quick access in order to share news stories, there may be important information that is not included or information that someone heard wrong. People appreciate being able to read news on this social platform, but often times it is important to check if the source is trusted and confirm what is heard. Instagram users have quick access to any information they wish to find, and they have the option to respond to it, in any way they wish. Although this is true, there have been cases when a user is censored for an opinion they hold or words they use. In this case, Instagram limits what someone can say about something, and users must respond using different words or in an alternative way.
Although there are several concerns and issues surrounding Instagram’s quality as a news source and democratic space, Instagram functions as a convenient community space for many people. It operates as an area where people can discuss events and situations that are important to them. People often have different opinions than one another, but that is part of having important conversations with multiple perspectives, as opposed to having one single perspective on a situation. Instagram continues to evolve and create more opportunities for people to use it as a space where they can interact with stories about current events. As it continues to build and become greater, people continue to turn to it in order as a source, to receive real time information.
Bishop, Katie. “Why Are Millennials and Gen Z Turning to Instagram as a News Source?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 27 July 2020, www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/jul/27/instagram-news-source-social-media.
Shearer, Elisa, and Katerina Eva Matsa. “News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2018.” Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project, 27 Aug. 2020, www.journalism.org/2018/09/10/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2018/.
Vázquez-Herrero, Jorge, et al. “Ephemeral Journalism: News Distribution Through Instagram Stories.” Social Media + Society, vol. 5, no. 4, 2019, doi:10.1177/2056305119888657.
“Instagram ‘Will Overtake Twitter as a News Source’.” BBC News, BBC, 15 June 2020, www.bbc.com/news/technology-53050959.