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Opinion: Is Facebook becoming a mainstream media outlet?

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Over the past few months, a number of horrific events have been broadcast on Facebook through the use of Facebook Live. The most recent tragedy to be shown live on the social media outlet occurred just a few days ago on Easter Sunday. Steve Stephens, a Cleveland resident, broadcasted himself killing 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. using Facebook.

With the video being made available instantaneously, and viewed by so many in such a short time period, a very conflicting question emerges: Is Facebook becoming a mainstream media outlet?

Yes, it is.

I decided to put this definition to the test, using my own social media habits as a basis. I get most of my information from reliable news sources such as The New York Times or Washington Post. However, I wanted to see how often I first find out about news through Facebook. As a social media junkie, I am on Facebook a lot throughout the day, although I did not think that I read much news on it. After tracking my Facebook habits for one day, I was surprised.

In one day, beginning around 9 a.m. and ending around midnight, I had clicked on roughly 50 news articles while surfing through my Facebook feed. Fifty. I thought maybe it would be about 10 or 15, but 50? As a journalist, I thought I would do better.

Now, if you ask me to recall the websites Facebook took me to after clicking on these links or the original sources of the articles, I really can’t tell you. When I think of where I got the news, I think “Well, I got it from Facebook.”

A Fortune article detailed the results of a study conducted by the Pew Research Center examining how adults find and gather news during a typical week.

“About 10% of the users who clicked links to get news said the source of their news was Facebook,” said Fortune reporter Mathew Ingram.

Ten percent may not seem like much, but take the roughly 2,000 adults interviewed and find 10 percent of the sample. That’s 200 people who used Facebook for their news. The study is on a small scale, so the actual number of individuals who use Facebook as their main news source is extremely high.

The study also states that about 50 percent of the time, people do not remember the original sources for the Facebook links, just like I didn’t. Another alarming fact the study revealed is that people of younger generations, particularly college-age students, are more likely to not remember the real source of the news they find compared with older generations.

In order to completely determine whether Facebook is in fact a mainstream media outlet, more studies need to be made. However, despite this analyses, I do believe it can be considered mainstream media.

Due to many news stories breaking not on the air but rather through social media, Facebook is the place to go for breaking news.

From the shooting on Sunday to April the giraffe finally having her baby to NASA live streaming its newest launch, Facebook has become instantaneous news recently.

Live feeds on Facebook have the same effect as watching a live news broadcast. It is instantaneous information.

The introduction of Facebook as a mainstream media source has its pros and cons. It is great that social media is making it easier and easier to get information instantly. However, the problem of not having a way to approve information before it goes on Facebook is what leads to millions watching a man get brutally murdered on social media.

If Facebook were to find a way to filter live feed, questions of media ethics and breaking the First Amendment would of course arise.

I do not know how Facebook will be able to better control what broadcasts live and what does not, nor do I know how it can filter out fake news and false media. However, I do know that Facebook, as has been proven by studies and by the events of Easter Sunday, is now a mainstream media outlet.

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