The six fundamentals taught in every freshman journalism class are who, what, where, when, how and why. These same principles hold true when it comes to social media; whether it be online news sites, blogs and, even, social media marketing. Always ready to rear its ugly head is the sixth principle of "why". The “why” has always been speculative and, at times, dangerous; especially when the story is still fresh and the facts haven't been fully fleshed out. If the writer stays true to their craft and omits any reference to the "why" question to avoid a sense of perceived bias; the reader or viewer automatically inserts their own perspective into the process. It is this use or nonuse of the "why" factor that creates a bias in the ever evolving world of social media.
No media outlet (whether it be in print, broadcast or online) is exempt from utilizing some sort of bias in its reporting. Bias is simply another word for opinion. It has been present in both an overt or covert form since the inception of mass media. There are several gospels of the bible which never made it to the final edit based on the church’s bias. Town criers did not report all the news in the village square unless it served the whims of the village elders.
This bias is not restricted solely to the news media. Question five people who have read the same book, or have seen the same play or movie. At least three, if not five, different interpretations will be received in response. Society has been flexing its opinionated muscle since the beginning of time. People bring their own life experiences into the mix when processing information.
The explosion of social media sites on the Internet seems to have heightened this bias. Once this innate bias is acknowledged, online information can be processed in a more informed manner. The Internet has afforded society the opportunity to familiarize itself with a larger spectrum of opinion and ideas than our forefathers. Once people realize that a modern day town crier’s view on an issue, product or brand is never going to be free of a certain amount of bias; their social media experience will be less stressful and frustrating.
Going into the process acknowledging the existence of bias on social media channels, gives a person reason to pause before going off on an all capitalized rant or, worse yet, unfriending their childhood sweetheart because they couldn’t agree on why they broke up back in high school. There it is, that dreaded “why” factor, raising its ugly head once again.