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News at the Speed of Social Media


Written by Kristi Rolf

I’m not great at following the news. Compared to some of my friends, who regularly read and listen to news outlets, I’m uninformed on most subjects. A couple of weeks ago, I asked some friends, “do you know what’s happening in the Suez Canal right now?” To my surprise, I was met with blank faces. I took a moment to savor this rare moment as the bearer of news before explaining. On March 23rd, a container ship named Ever Given ran aground in the Suez Canal in Egypt. For five days, the 1,312-foot-long ship blocked the narrow waterway which funnels 12% of global trade between the Mediterranean and Red Seas. I felt slightly less cocky when I remembered why I was aware of this historic event: I had seen videos about it on TikTok. That’s right, the social media app most well-known for its dance trends was my source for breaking international news. 

It may seem silly for important news to be distributed on an app created for entertainment. However, this event was one example of the pattern of young people using novel methods to disperse information. Just like the Greatest Generation enabled the growth of radio, Baby Boomers provided an audience for television, and Generation X and Millennials gave credibility to internet journalism, Generation Z is using the newest technology available to share information. Today’s teens and twenty-somethings have taken control of the TikTok platform to discuss news and perspectives they consider important. The Suez Canal blockage was not the first major event I first learned about on the video-sharing app, nor will it be the last. Perhaps the 2020s will be the decade when social media apps become respected as news outlets.