The use of the internet and subsequently social media has become widely recognized by people of all ages and geographical dispensations. People rely on the internet as a source of information, and as a way of getting fast information. The traditional media have been acknowledged for years as reliable sources of getting news, but the same cannot be said of the social media. Recently, some rumours spread like wild fire among Nigerian undergraduates; these rumours later turned out to be untrue. For example, a popular pop singer in Nigeria, Tu Face Idibia, was said to have died and the longest bridge in Nigeria, Third Mainland Bridge, was also going to be blown up by the terrorist group known as Boko Haram.
Social network users also circulated the rumour that certain food items from northern Nigeria have been poisoned, causing panic among people. Since social networks involve users’ generated content, the sources and truthfulness of these contents are hardly ascertained. Notwithstanding, news are continuously spread via these social media, some of which many times have been discovered to be false. With this credibility problem associated with social media news, it is necessary to determine the extent to which social media users believe the news content they get from these social networks.
It was confirmed that the dominance of the internet and online channels as news sources cuts across geographical space. One would have thought that the use of internet among young people who are students in a place like Nigeria would be limited to academic purposes against the backdrop of some factors such as access, cost, exposure, etc; but that is not the case. We also discovered that most social networks users make use of the internet for both information and interaction. The social networks are multi-purpose in use. Thus, in the process of interaction, information is shared and news spread. This is one of the advantages of social networks above the traditional mass media of radio and television. The reasons given from our findings reveals that their choice of social networks as a primary source of information include convenience and the fact that being connected to a social network through handy devices such as smart phones and modems as top reasons. However, the traditional media are used as a way of crosschecking information gotten on the social media. This means that even though the use of the Internet and social media has been primarily adopted by youths as a way of getting information, the significance of traditional media has only slightly diminished and the traditional media still holds its position as a credible way of getting information. From our findings, it was observed that the advantages of social networks and therefore prefer social networks as a source of news; however, the traditional media cannot be completely pushed to the background or ignored as a source of information. One of the major reasons why people still go back to traditional media is its credibility and trustworthiness. If social networks are not made to be more credible and trustworthy, some of its users might begin to refer back to the traditional media as a primary source of information and use the social media as a secondary source of information.
It can therefore be observed that the use of social media by youths has surpassed the use of traditional media as a way of disseminating information, especially for news. The current phase and trend in the world dictates an unusually high craving for advanced technological gadgets. These gadgets have since made it easier and more convenient for most people, especially youths, to get and receive information speedily. The advantages that social media presents is possibly the result of its boost among university undergraduates. Social networks can boast of several advantages over the traditional media such as interaction and connectivity, immediacy and speed of news dissemination, and the convenience involved in receiving such information. The social network platform readily provides its users with a way of exchanging ideas and opinions on certain issues of choice.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
It is clear that the use of the Internet and social networks is a phase that is fast catching on among the youths regardless of geographical location. Not minding the core values of news dissemination, social networks have caught on with a speed that has not allowed for its alignment with the values of news dissemination. Factors such as credibility, accuracy, news-worthiness and believability can sometimes be questioned in the use of social networks. Factors like accessibility, convenience, and ease of use have however made it impossible for youths to take into consideration the authenticity of the information that is being spread across social networks.
It is therefore necessary for proper codes of ethics to be adopted by social network owners to ensure credibility and accuracy of information, as well as for more believable news dissemination. More than anything, the users control and determine what they do with the information that they receive over the media. They should therefore always seek to crosscheck information obtained from social media with other available news sources before accepting or even passing the same information to other vulnerable users.