Using social media for research: How reliable is it?

Tammy Alamrieh

Say goodbye to print newspapers and hello to Twitter. Social media is becoming more frequently used as a news outlet for individuals. In a time where we are wholly in tune to social media, is it unreasonable to use the most prominent of these websites for research?

Social media should be considered a dependable source of information. Facebook and Twitter, two of the most popular websites for social interactions, are buzzing with communal information allowing users to share news as it happens. In 2013, there is no need to wait for the morning paper. In the golden era of the Internet, news is shared in real time.

We are more plugged in now than ever. Our time is consumed by checking Twitter and Facebook. There is no longer need for a computer to check social media; smart phones have changed the way we interact online. There’s an application for everything making social media versatile and easier to use. In addition,  this year smartphone ownership will reach 1.4 billion users who are more widespread than ever.

Scanning articles in a newspaper to see what you are missing is time consuming and inconvenient. Politicians, newspapers, and CEOs of major companies use social media to update the public. Trending topics on twitter display what is current. There is no getting behind on news, it’s right in front of us all and organized accordingly by means of ‘hashtags’ alone. There is no longer a need to look up what is current and trending, it’s all laid out. Rather than reading every article when ‘unplugged’, narrow your search on the home page of Facebook or on the side bar of Twitter.

Despite the ease of gathering all information from social media, this method may lead to more inaccurate information unless we do further research. We are able to gather bits and pieces of information from 140 characters or less, but that is not enough to understand a topic’s whole perspective. Social media provides awareness to public matters and provides opinion, which should lead users to further explore topics by means of appropriate sources. Rather than accumulating the entire story from a Facebook user’s post, links allow you to be lead to a more credible source. Social media is and should be used as the first step for assembling news.

Whether you’re at the gym, eating dinner or watching a movie, access to the public stream of information is limitless and effortlessly accessible. We all fall victim to checking online every half hour to see what others are saying, whether in class or on the treadmill. Access to news is at our fingertips and we should take advantage of it.

In a society where we are constantly connected online, there is nothing wrong with acquiring information from those relaying it instantaneously. Reliable firsthand information is available directly from newspapers and public figures. It’s 2013, and as desolate as it sounds, waiting for the morning newspaper seems almost medieval. The touch of a button  provides us access to an abundance of information. We are able to gather material from many different sources to complete research and construct our own opinion, and there is nothing more progressive than that.