Friday, May 20

Why do young people change the newsstand for TikTok? 5 keys to go beyond prejudice

At this point we are clear that social networks are the main dishes of the information diet of young Spaniards. But we still have many unknowns to resolve – and the occasional prejudice – about the motivations and consequences of this increasingly consolidated reality.

Channels and sources

According to the report Media Navigator 2021 71% of people between 16 and 24 years of age inform themselves via social networks, while the volume of adults who resort to them is 46%. Television for young people ranks second (52% are informed through it) and only a quarter mention traditional newspapers and websites. Of the total radio consumption in Spain, listeners under the age of 25 barely touch 10%. We often associate influencers as the great prescribers of generation Z, but only 18% consider them a source of information. They also distinguish the impacts of social networks (mainly TikTok, Instagram, Youtube or Twitch) from those of instant messaging (Whatsapp, Telegram), for the latter 73.7% consider it a main focus of hoaxes and rumors that they can reach through friends and family (as opposed to 50% via social media platforms).

One of the keys is that they do not feel represented neither in the themes, nor the approaches nor the treatment of the information. Moreover, they feel invisible but when they are given visibility, almost half feel unfairly treated by the media (47% according to the last Digital News Report 2021). Barbara Yuste, in a chapter for INJUVE It also identifies that what they do is often portrayed instead of what they say or think (they are not asked), playful and uncommitted imaginaries are generally shown and the space occupied by children’s news barely reaches 5%.

Media literacy is deficient because according to the FAD Foundation, only 22.5% between 14 and 16 years old consider that they have been educated to have a critical spirit and their own opinion. A more optimistic data is thrown by the study 21st century readers: developing reading skills in a digital world of the OECD, where 46% of 15-year-old students receive training to recognize the reliability of information (compared to the 54% average of OECD countries, as included in the study The same report states that only 41% are able to identify false information It is worth mentioning that these are the data from the last PISA (taken in 2018) and with the infodemic many have been activated educational projects and resources in this way.

Information, meaning and belonging

The data we have so far is usually quantitative, aggregated and with questions designed from adult-centric biases and fears. They serve us to draw the landscape, to begin to define and account for the magnitude of what we observe and imagine. To bring it down to concrete experiences, we talked to 5 young people so that they could tell us about their daily news, we want to hear first-hand what their media habits are beyond knowing which social networks they go to.

We choose young people with university studies from Madrid and Barcelona, ​​with different degrees of interest in current affairs. It is not an exhaustive or representative sample, something difficult given the personalized and individual experience of digital consumption, but it allows us to look beyond prejudice:

#1 The informative FOMO:

I start by asking them about how they are informed about the Russian invasion in Ukraine and three of them point out that they try to keep up to date but feel the pressure that they should be more so. The demands of the environment and the fear of missing things (Fear of Missing Out in English) also cover the information sphere.

“I almost feel guilty for not being more informed, but I know I will have a hard time and I try to protect myself” (JR, 23-year-old woman from Barcelona, ​​humanities student)

“ To introduce myself I looked for a short video on YouTube and when I finished the 3 minutes I looked at some comments and saw that I lacked context to understand, that I needed to immerse myself more”. (VM, woman from Barcelona, ​​22 years old and engineering student).

#2 TV, with the family and in the background

TV seems like a complement that comes from adults, this space for family news consumption can serve as a place of contrast:

“I watch the news with my parents and we comment on what appears” (VM) “I complement what I see on networks with the TV news at dinner time, because my parents watch it” (AA).

And they also perceive a great contrast between the narratives and the approaches:

“[En redes] Other more basic topics are touched on, which do not have so much to do with personalities or personalisms” (AR, anthropology student, Madrid, 23 years old)

“In the videos on TikTok or Instagram, Putin is not even mentioned, they are videos of ordinary people, people like me who tell how they are experiencing it.” (AA).

They feel that the contents that circulate on networks are more personal and close, they value them as more real. In the telenews they identify a partial, institutional look that is far removed from the reality of the streets, which is what interests them.

#3 Receive news or go get it

Digital consumption allows passive and proactive modality. AA, a 20-year-old biology student, commented: “At first I was on networks like Instagram and Tik Tok and news came to me, I didn’t look for it because I wasn’t very interested but my friends posted something.” This collective dimension of information is important, because in a certain way it also connects with the sense of belonging: it is no longer just what you report, your media landscape is also made up of your contacts.

On the other hand, KL, 27, with studies in communication and art, comments that “if you have a well-selected community aligned with your interests, the algorithm reinforces those contents that interest you.” His usual sources may include traditional web headers, but above all specific individual journalists who talk about the issues that interest him and quote 5W, El Orden Mundial, Inés Hernand or Emilio Doménech (Nanisimo). They trust the medium as a result of the people who work in it.

#4 Shallowness vs depth“

We often associate networks with fast and superficial consumption, and there is even an emotional shock part:

“My partner before going to sleep starts looking at TikTok and the other day a video of a Russian tank crushing a car appeared. Beyond the initial impact of the image, what does that bring and how does it leave you? Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish a movie trailer from real content, because we can see them one after the other and on the same platform (VM).

But they also find depth, especially on Twitch or YouTube: “Long content works very well on networks, for example, 2-hour live shows as long as they are close, critical voices and with empathetic looks” (KL).

#5 the democratization of information and opinion

For some, the networks are above all a space where they can experiment with new formats and languages, they feel that they can appropriate the loudspeaker at their convenience, something unimaginable in traditional media. It is worth highlighting the feeling of moral rigidity that they attribute to the hegemonic media, while they perceive digital consumption as something freer and more dynamic that allows them to explore their own contradictions:

“The networks also allow you to go to the original source, for example the news agencies of the countries involved. It also helps you to expose yourself to different opinions, something that does not happen in traditional media, and to keep asking yourself questions” (AR).

These five testimonials are just a small example of everything that remains under our radar when we think of the pairing of young people and social networks as an information source. More than a generation gap between conventional and digital media, we find an abyss of meaning and representation. They assume that disinformation is part of the information ecosystem and worries them, but what matters most is the community dimension: only those formats that directly appeal to them and/or make them participate capture their interest.