Twitter: Does “Fast News” Threaten Our Sense of Morality?

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Pete Cashmore tweeted about this story on cnn.com.
The article states that according to scientists, receiving rapid news from sources such as Twitter, might numb our sense of morality and make us indifferent to human suffering.
Below are a few excerpts from the article, explaining what some scientists believe to be consequences of using tools like Twitter to get your news:

New findings show that the streams of information provided by social networking sites are too fast for the brain’s “moral compass” to process and could harm young people’s emotional development.

Before the brain can fully digest the anguish and suffering of a story, it is being bombarded by the next news bulletin or the latest Twitter update, according to a University of Southern California study.

“If things are happening too fast, you may not ever fully experience emotions about other people’s psychological states and that would have implications for your morality,” said researcher Mary Helen Immordino-Yang.

I can agree with these scientists to a certain extent, but the research does not take into account the fact that many “tweets” are links to more in depth stories, allowing the user to take more time, if desired, to absorb and digest the information. Tweets regarding hard news stories, in particular, do seem to link to full stories the majority of the time.
One thing researchers must take into consideration is that there are many options as far as where people can get their news, and people will consume the stories that most interest them. On the other hand, with all the options out there, we cannot make people consume or even care about stories they are not interested in, regardless of how important they may be.
So…are we being desensitized by “fast news?” Pete Cashmore clearly does not think so. What do you think?

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One response to “Twitter: Does “Fast News” Threaten Our Sense of Morality?

  1. I think news in general, whether consumed quickly or slowly, can desensitize us. But I don’t really agree that “quick news” in and of itself desensitizes us. Granted if we do take the time so dive into a story, it might have more of an impact on us, but at the same time, reading a headline can also have an impact on us. Think about reading headlines during the Sept. 11 attacks. Even if we only read the headline saying that the two towers were attacked, it would still impact us and stir our emotions even if we only read it for a second and then move on. The emotional impact may not last for very long, but it’s still there. I can see where the scientists are coming from, but I still think just the quick blurbs of information on Twitter can have an emotional affect on us, even if we do move onto the next story quickly.

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