Ignorance or apathy in the age of social media?

Have you ever taken your headphones off on the train and listened to the ramblings of everyone around you? Most likely, you heard about a bad date, what happened in a meeting or what was for dinner that night. Yet, how often do you hear your peers discussing what’s happening in world? It seems that is rare to hear questions exchanged concerning immigration reform or same-sex marriage legislation today.

Pew Research Center conducted a study in 2011 on people 18-34 and their knowledge of the world and current events. The younger participants knew less than half of the questions they were asked. Foreign affairs, U.S politics and even basic geography showed the widest knowledge gap.

“Not being aware of current events can prevent people from being able to engage in meaningful conversation,” said DePaul senior Ashley Valentin.

Valentin sees engaging in the news as a means of enacting discussion and ultimately calling for change. This especially applies to DePaul students where DePaul’s values are centered on the community and improving the lives of those around us.

“Change happens in the world through discussing our world and the issues it has,” Valentin said. “But, if the younger generations can’t bother to read what’s happening in the world, how can any of us expect change?”

If you look to your left and right while on campus, you’re looking at the future leaders of tomorrow. If they don’t take into consideration what’s taking place around them and apply that to life, we could be in trouble.

News has to shift with the times and present the information in a way that will appeal to younger audiences. In this social media driven world, formulating the news in a way that is compelling and attention grabbing is key.

“I don’t really keep my audience in mind for most of the process. I write and create whatever content I want, and when I promote that content I try to market my work in a way that my target audience would respond to,” said Olivia Cunningham, a DePaul student who runs her own social commentary blog.

Molly Andolina, a DePaul professor with a special interest in millennials and their interests in social and civic matters, commented on the relationship of young people and news.

“Young people are not consumers of traditional news because they have always lived in a world of more options — not just for news but for alternative forms of entertainment. When you are raised on that, it’s hard to develop the traditional news habit,” said Andolina.

Younger people are using the new forms of information mediums and have become obsessed with the wrong topics, such as celebrities, memes and selfies.

However, this obsession can be seen positively in regards to today’s social movements. Young activists are using social media to act as a megaphones in this day and age.

With the power of Twitter and Facebook, organizing protests and building a community with others interested in the same cause is easier than ever before. Examining the BlackLivesMatter movement, a large part of the movement can be seen through the work done on social media. In Ferguson and Baltimore, protests and solidarity gatherings have occurred largely because of social media, and have consequently brought much needed attention to the movement.  Social media in this sense has been used to organize and educate the masses, while providing a platform for the voices ignored by mainstream media.

Being young doesn’t mean one doesn’t care, but rather one just cares differently. Things are so often lost in translation leaving us with ill-formed conclusions.

“I would argue that young people don’t need to be taught to care about issues. If anything, they have led the way on some issues they care passionately about,” Andolina said. “My research shows that young people are as motivated to action by the issues as they are any of the other traditional predictors of political participation.  What they need is for older generations to listen to them and act.”

So maybe the younger generations are more aware than they let on. Their interests and means of action are reflective of the digital age we live in. For some, social media is a means of showing support and advocacy for the issues in this world.

In this age of timelines and trends, showing knowledge of the world around you is done through social media interactions. We have to change with the times and essentially live with the fact that we are a digitally obsessed society. However, we can’t get caught in the hype of cat videos, when there are crimes against humanity happening a scroll away.