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Blurring the lines between memes and meaningful reporting

Alexandra Lipton, COPY EDITOR

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   “Political memes are the highest quality of meme in my personal opinion.”

   Junior J. P. Arney is no stranger to social media, where he regularly searches for high quality memes, or popular and funny images circulated on the internet. But it is increasingly common for social media companies to integrate news into their meme-ridden platforms. Whether it be Buzzfeed or the New York Times, it is hard to escape news articles on Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter.

   Sometimes, these news articles help make social media users more politically aware. After all, just scrolling past a news headline can alert someone of a current event that they might not have known about.

   “I don’t normally search for news if I don’t hear about it somewhere else first,” junior Carolyn Lightsey said. “But when I see a major story on social media, I look it up to know more about it.”

   When people look up things they see on social media to become better informed, social media becomes a good use of time. But the all-the-more common scenario is a much worse use of time: seeing one innocent, yet intriguing, headline that tells you to take a quiz to discover what type of toast you are, clicking the link and being sucked into a void of unproductivity for the next hour and a half.

   These links, as well as “news” stories that cover the day-to-day lives of celebrities, are known as clickbait—content whose main purpose is to attract attention to their websites. Though it may be essential to check that one is not the worst type of toast—burnt—it is users’ precious time that is burned away. In this way, the abundance of real-world news on social media becomes overshadowed.

   “[The news on social media] is always the most ridiculous of stories,” Arney said. “It’s not actually the stories you want to read, it’s just high-end clickbait. I don’t actually read it.”

   According to Forbes Magazine on Jan. 16, even though it is helpful in delivering real news, “Facebook has itself sped the decline of traditional news. A lot of the fake news sites were custom built for Facebook, taking into account the biases of its newsfeed algorithm.”

   To find news that is actually meaningful, users should follow, like and subscribe to accounts that can help keep them informed like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. But the fact of the matter is: it’s never been social media’s first priority to keep users up to speed about current events.

   The reason there is so much clickbait and so many high-quality memes out there is because those are the types of funny, mindless news articles and stories that have found a place in our pop culture and social media. Social media is a great way to become informed, but only if the user wants to be. If not, there are still plenty of things to read and discover on social media—like what kind of toast you are.

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The student news site of Trinity Preparatory School
Blurring the lines between memes and meaningful reporting