Since the beginning of the pandemic, citizens have taken it upon themselves to be the median between consumers and official news sources. Acting as a sort of “supporter” for reported news, social media users sometimes work to spread information or simply gain trust as a credible informant. This is seemingly harmless as the reports are usually firsthand and in the moment, with video and photo proof. However, this type of media has come under increased scrutiny for manipulation— especially for TikTok users.
Social media account holders on TikTok have recently covered two major events that have gotten millions and even billions of views worldwide, the explosion in Lebanon and the derecho that hit the Midwest over a week ago. Searching #lebanon on TikTok will result in over 5 billion views of some graphic videos showing the explosion from different angles taken by citizens and those asking for donations to the Lebanese Red Cross app or volunteers to help. When searching the same thing on Google, you get mostly political news and government affiliations, not rallying cries.
Does this mean that we can no longer count on the news to give a full story? No.
This simply means that we have advanced in technology so greatly that we are capable of spreading important information ourselves and witnessing it on the accounts of others. As of July 2020, TikTok holds over 800 million users worldwide, implying that news not only reaches regionally or nationally, but even globally. On top of that, since some videos get frequent views or go “viral” all it takes is a quick search on the internet to find what topics may already be trending.
However, as the saying goes, “with great power, comes great responsibility.” It is convenient to learn from others what is going on in their region, but it is just as important to personally conduct research as it may cut out any blurred lines in stories.
As we advance into a high-tech society where people are becoming more skillful in extraordinary tasks like news reporting, it is clear that some old ways are still very necessary. TikTok does provide users first-hand accounts of major events that could be more entertaining than political news, but it is not always completely reliable.