What is ‘Social News’ on the Internet?

With access to social media, and individuals increasing the number of social accounts they have personally, news spreads faster and faster. Within seconds of an event happening, millions of people can become aware of it, and there’s simply no stopping that.

One of the difficulties that comes along with this is that it becomes hard to know what’s true, and what’s embellished or fake; this is especially true when the prevalence and reach of stories is often based on what is most shared across social media accounts. This is social news.

It’s important that you understand the dangers and potential illegitimacy that’s associated with social news. And certainly, you can understand why. When social websites make money on pages that get thousands of shares in only a few hours, it’s always a priority to create a compelling piece of content that gets many shares very quickly, and whether that content can be verified – or is downright nonsense – matters very little.

To help you get a grasp on what exactly social news is, and what you need to know if you like sharing news articles online, we’ll break it all down for you:

We can also teach you all about how to find unbiased news on the Internet in our article here. But for now, read on to become a social news guru, and make sure you’re always sharing legitimate news stories across your social accounts.

What social news is and how to recognize it

Social news is the occurrence of online news mixed with a form of social interaction, and is entirely reliant on social media websites. It can include sharing, voting, or user input, and what is presented depends on recorded trends relating to how users interacted with similar content in the past.

Person on social media on mobile

Though that seems like a broad definition, there are a few key giveaways that would indicate you are looking at a social news site, rather than a legitimate news platform. This can include:

  • Comments are a key component of the story
  • Opportunity for sharing the story is obvious, and sometimes feels forced
  • Users get to vote on what they want to see
  • User forums exist that shape the story
  • What you view on the site seems to be derived from your own search history and online habits rather than what you’ve specifically searched for

Knowing this, one of the first few questions that comes to mind includes how credible can these sources of news be? It’s also difficult to determine if what you’re seeing is truly a form of social news. Is it legitimate news you’re seeing? Is it simply a social media platform that happens to be displaying a newsworthy event? It may be hard to tell, but the bottom line is that you need to know if what you’re reading is credible.

How reliable and trustworthy is social news?

Social news is not a reliable and trustworthy source of news when compared to established news platforms that include sources, though that does not mean it’s not legitimate. It’s important to check for sources, and other giveaways that indicate the news may be false, but social news has its benefits.

As long as you skim through the article and can identify sources, a legitimate author, proper formatting, and many facts within the article (as opposed to someone’s opinion or argument in entirety), then what you’re reading probably has some legitimacy.

Checking news for sources

In addition, the social interactive component of social news can be a very effective way to gain additional perspective on certain events, especially if people commenting and sharing are personally involved in the event you’re interested in. As with any website, the Internet provides a veil of anonymity that allows people to exaggerate or be directly untruthful with little to no consequences, but that doesn’t mean the various social perspectives on an event aren’t worth examining.

Types of social news websites

Now you’ve got the basics of social news down, including its potential danger to ruin your online reputation if you share too much illegitimate information. The next step is gaining the ability to recognize where it occurs online, and which of the common websites you may be using everyday are in fact, social news sites. These are the three main forms that social news takes on common websites, and examples of popular sites that make use of social news tactics.

Social networking news feeds

The concept of a “news feed” is present in many social media websites, and for good reason. The premise is that each time you sign on, rather than needing to search through the pages of your friends, you can infinitely scroll through all of the updates that the people you’re connected to have posted about online – in one place.

One thing that you may not always recognize is how often that news feed is filled with things not related to your connections, including advertisements, and social news updates. A story that’s trending on the social site might pop up on your feed, along with the comments of other users, or other forms of social interaction. By showing you a story you might be interested in based on your habits on the site (which the website tracks), they are in fact showing you a form of social news. After all, you didn’t ask to be shown that story, so why is it appearing? The answer is that the website hopes you’ll enjoy it, and share it with others, allowing the cycle to continue.

Example: Facebook
Facebook does this in your Facebook newsfeed every time you open it, because it tracks everything you do on the site. If you scroll through enough updates, you’ll find something that was seemingly “suggested” for you, or simply something you “might like.” Often, these can be specific news stories that Facebook is hoping you will like and share, helping to spread the Facebook content across more and more people’s newsfeeds.

News on Facebook

Hashtags and trending topics

The hashtag (#) is a commonly-used form of helping topics within sites trend across various platforms. By adding a hashtag and categorizing the information you share within the confines of one topic, the way news is shared is dependent on those who choose to follow a specific topic. These hashtags are also used intentionally to group together a collective of people who are interested in one news topic.

Example: Twitter
Twitter popularized the use of the hashtag on its website, using it as an easy way for users to connect with one another, by tagging their social updates with generic topics that other people may relate to. In this way, users can follow a topic that they relate to, and see what other people in similar situations are doing.

This became extremely popular for news stories, as a hashtag would be placed before the title or description of an event, and people can continuously see who else in the entire world is currently talking about it, or sharing their own information. In this way, the spread of news is entirely dependent on what individuals want to share, and their ability to latch on to popular topics that are already trending on the Internet.

News on Twitter

News boards and user voting

For some websites, users voting on content and topics is their bread and butter, and it is a feature that some users simply love. The general principle is that if people have to vote on what they like, then only the best, funniest, cleverest, or most important posts will make it to the public feed that you can easily scroll through. However, these types of sites are one of the less legitimate ways of accessing news, because in most cases, all of the content is user-generated, and then voted on to determine what you see. There are far too many steps of removal from the original event or news story to allow for much legitimacy.

Example: Reddit
Reddit is a website that makes use of user-generated content, comments, forums, and a “hot” page to show its users trending stories. Media can be shared, or entirely user-generated, and there is very little way to determine where information is truly coming from. On this website, you can get the real human perspective from people who live all over the world, with different backgrounds and different beliefs; however, the trade off is that the information is difficult to trust, and has been exposed to be fake in countless instances throughout the history of the website.

News on Reddit

Hopefully you have a much better understanding of what social news is and which sites you’re using online make use of the same kinds of tactics. Always think about where your information is coming from, especially when you’re sharing news content. If you want to keep your online reputation in tact and unbesmirched, then check out our other helpful articles about online news.