“Having a smartphone means I am also used to regularly checking internet sites such as BBC News, Facebook and Twitter. Without these, I felt a little out of touch with the world and craved to know what was going on not only in worldwide news, but with my friends’ everyday thoughts and experiences, posted in statuses, tweets and blog posts daily.” — UK
- What is ‘news’? Worldwide events AND friends’ everyday thoughts: In their daily behavior, most students around the world didn’t discriminate between news that say The New York Times, the BBC or Al Jazeera might cover, and news that might only appear in a friend’s Facebook status update. ‘News’ meant ‘something that just happened’ – and students wanted to know what that was, whether it was globally momentous or only of personal interest.
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- ‘We no longer search for news, the news finds us‘: No matter where they live, the amount of information coming into students via their mobile phones or the Internet – via text message, on Facebook, Twitter, chat, Skype IM, QQ, email, etc. – is overwhelming; students are inundated 24/7. As a result, most students reported that they rarely go prospecting for news at mainstream or legacy news sites. They inhale, almost unconsciously, the news that is served up on the sidebar of their email account, that is on friends’ Facebook walls, that comes through on Twitter.
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- ‘140 characters of news is all I need’: The non-stop deluge of information coming via mobile phones and online means that most students across the world have neither the time nor the interest to follow up on even quite important news stories – unless they are personally engaged. For daily news, students have become headline readers via their social networks who only learn more about a story when the details or updates are also served up via text or tweet or post.
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Read all about it: Compared to other types of media in this study, news was mentioned relatively infrequently by students. Those who did mention it commented that they missed being able to “stay up on the news.” What they meant by this, however, seemed to vary from person to person.
A few students lamented that they were missing the daily coverage in newspapers, magazines and blogs. But at least as often, when the word “news” was mentioned it didn’t mean information coming from journalists but rather updates from their friends and family via e-mail, text messages and social networking sites. This trend was particularly noticeable among the U.S. students, who typically seemed to define “news” as “what’s happening among their peers.” This finding confirms that the definition of news is in the midst of significant evolution.
“I think that´s why people are so obsessed with the media nowadays. They need to know what´s going on everywhere and every time. I can´t really tell why it is so important, but still they need to buy the newspaper, listen to the radio or turn the TV on when the news is on. Well, there are also those who use media only for pleasure or for fun.” — Slovakia
No problem going without hard news: Because Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and their counterparts are increasingly the way students reported getting their news and information, students were cavalier about any need for traditional news outlets. Very few students mentioned any legacy or online news outlet by name – and those that were mentioned tended to be sports outlets referenced by American students.
While all the students expressed an interest in being and staying informed, it was a minority of students in any country who complained about having to go without local, national or world news for a day. Some students noted that they missed a news outlet’s 140-character Twitter updates, but they weren’t desperate to read or surf to the New York Times or its equivalents.
To many of them “newspapers,” for example, were just another media platform to be mentioned in the same breath as Facebook and Xbox.
- Chile: “I have avoided newspapers, radio or even TV for some days, but my cell phone and the Internet was something that I really felt I needed, and being away from them made me feel desperate.”
- China: “I didn’t have the habit of reading the newspaper. I usually get news from the internet. So not reading the newspaper makes no influence.”
- USA: “For me, there wasn’t a psychological need to check my email or the news, but knowing that things were going on that I wasn’t aware about was not a good feeling.”
- Slovakia: “Reading newspapers during breakfast is not my habit, so the other problems were waiting for me at the school.”
- USA: “As I expected, 24 hours of Facebook and whatnot was really not a problem. Neither was 24 hours without Xbox or newspapers.”
Missing Social News: What appeared to matter most to students was their being behind in the news about their friends and family. Students wanted “news,” yes, but the term was blurred in their minds, as the same platforms – Facebook, Twitter, emails, texts – that carry their personal news, also are the ways in which students get the bulk of their daily “hard” news, too.
- Chile: “I realized how spontaneous media makes our life and that if you do not participate you will somehow always be behind – in terms of the latest news or social activities.”
- China: “How I wish I could open my mobile phone to edit the message and read some interesting news from my lovely girl. And I was afraid of whether there was anybody who had some emergencies to call me about during the whole day; whether I missed some important notices or news.”
“I wanted to go online and see what my friends had done that weekend or see if there was any important news or gossip.” — Chile
- UK: “I found this experiment fascinating as it showed me how much I use Facebook on a daily basis as a way of catching up on the news of those I care about!”
- USA: “I did not realize how much news I missed until I actually logged onto my Facebook for the first time. I found myself overwhelmed with notifications and (University of Maryland) emails, all in just twenty-four hours.”
Missing traditional news coverage: Although relatively few students, in any country, mentioned that they were desperate to follow news coming from traditional publications, there were some who wrote that keeping up with the news is an important part of their day.
“Even actions such as eating breakfast had been shaped to such an extent that I was almost distressed when I couldn’t read the news.” — UK
- UK: “My daily routine was interrupted — I wasn’t able to enjoy the newspaper and radio at four in the morning.”
- USA: “Without knowing relevant information, it was difficult to participate in small talk because I was unaware of the current events in the world. I couldn’t talk to my friends about the sports game of the night before or the big story in the news.”
- China: “I couldn’t keep the habit of reading the newspaper [on this day], which made me feel that my today was full of outdated news. I can’t know what is the latest development of the relations between China and Japan or China with America.”
- Chile: “The only thing was that I was no idea what was happening in the world. The idea of being uninformed was uncomfortable because I’m used to turning on my TV or my Twitter to know what’s going on.”
- Mexico: “I started the day in despair. I did not have any way of finding out what was happening around me since [I could not access] newspapers, news or any news source.”
Quotes may have been edited to regularize spelling and grammar.