Dangers of a User Generated World

To say the internet has changed the way we consume media would be an understatement. News organizations have apps that will send push notifications so we are never behind on breaking news. Twitter has rallied to make sure media organizations don’t ignore the stories of marginalized people.

And yet, for all the advantages new media has brought us, it may have also pigeon-holed us as news consumers. In Media Work, Mark Deuze notes that people now seek out media that confirms things they already believe, or reports only on the issues they care about. He writes, “Rather than subscribing to a so called ‘quality’ national newspaper or tuning in to the daily evening newscast, we search for news and information online that are only of personal interest to us.” (9)

As convenient as it is to read the news online, I believe there is something truly special about reading print media. While of course you can skip to the articles that are of interest to you in a magazine or newspaper, the print edition contains a multitude of articles on different subjects. I often find myself reading articles on topics I wouldn’t personally seek out while reading print media, just because they’re on the page in front of me. I read the New Yorker in print weekly, and whenever possibly, from cover to cover. I love the Financial Page in the New Yorker, despite the fact that I never generally don’t seek out articles about the financial world on my own. I’ve learned a lot from these articles and it’s certainly diversified my reading list and made me a better conversationalist.


Deuze goes on to say, “People are not necessarily disengaged from the political process, they just commit their time and energy to it on their own terms. This individualized act of citizenship can be compared to the act of the consumer, browsing the stores, the shopping mall for that perfect pair of jeans–it is the act of the citizen-consumer.” (29) Media Work provides an overview of the ways in which new media has exacerbated the American notion of individuality. The internet has made it possible for us to corner ourselves off into the digital communities and spaces that best fit our interests. I worry that this lack of cross-polination robs us of the opportunity to draw connections among issues and causes.

Certainly it makes sense to seek out news sources that are reputable, but I think this hyper-individualization goes beyond this. It is not only that people only seek out certain sources, but they only visit the coverage of certain issues on these platforms. It is the algorithms that Amazon uses to tell you which books you should read next based off what you’ve purchased. Not only do these algorithms keep people boxed inside their interests, Amazon is a horrible company for publishers, and a large threat to independent bookstores. Publishers and booksellers are among the knowledge producers of the creative industries, and their ideas add great value to the reading process. Booksellers in independent bookstores have gotten me to buy books off their recommendations alone, and these places are valuable because of the human interactions they provide. These interactions cannot be replicated in digital spaces.


Obviously the convenience of accessing news on the internet is not a bad thing. If we balance our media diets with a range of source material, spanning print and digital and a variety of topics, we are certainly the better for it. New media and print media do not need to exist in opposition to each other, if people incorporated both into their reading habits. It is when we get too comfortable in our digital bubbles that we run the risk of working, organizing and creating in silos.


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