College students can’t escape the news — but, according to a new study from Project Information Literacy, they need more guidance on how to navigate the onslaught of stories that fill their social media feeds.
The researchers looked at nearly 6,000 college students at 11 institutions to see how they get their news, and what news they’re getting. They also evaluated the Twitter feeds of more than 100,000 college-age students.
What they found is that respondents believed that news was important, with 82 percent agreeing that news was essential to democracy.
But, unsurprisingly given the daily deluge of national news, almost 70 percent of students reported being “overwhelmed” by the amount of news, and 51 percent found it difficult to identify what the most important news of the day was. Many were particularly frustrated by how their cell phones could act as a black hole of news, with no social media platform being free of references to current events.
"News interrupts my life a lot," said one life and physical sciences major. "[...] I'm looking at friends' pictures and enjoying myself and then there's videos about violence in Gaza and I think, 'Oh God, I can't avoid news!'"
That's a feeling that older adults can relate to, too. But unlike older generations, the college students surveyed had a broader definition of news. It isn't just content reported and vetted by journalists — news can come in the form of political memes, YouTube videos, comedy sketches, or Reddit threads, as well as in more traditional formats. Because they engage with the news in more ways than any generation before them, they're eager for help in navigating and prioritizing the constant stream coursing through their various apps and platforms.
Many students reported that they already had a strategy to navigate the news, which included using the educators in their lives as resources to both get news and help them understand it. Seventy percent said that they get some of their news from their professors.