Puerto Rico, the opioid crisis, Flint: all big headlines from months ago that spread across social media.
Google Trends uses numbers to represent search interest over time, with 100 representing peak popularity. In September of 2017, the term “Puerto Rico” was at 100, and, by only a month later, the term had dropped to 32.
More than four months have passed since Hurricane Maria plowed through Puerto Rico, leaving the island devastated and desperate for help. When the incident first happened, social media sites were filled with thoughts and prayers and fundraisers to help citizens in need after the devastation.
Four months later, about one-fourth of the population in Puerto Rico is still without electrical power according to The New York Times. The island’s leaders have announced they will not be able to pay any of their more than $70 million debt for the next five years due to the damage caused by Maria.
Despite Puerto Rico’s ongoing struggle, its social media ranking has dropped precipitously.
So what does this say about people? Do people just not care about news stories for an extended period of time? Or are the news stories not being reported? What is the cause of this 68-point drop?
Part of the cause could be where people get their news from. In the past three months, The New York Times has reported on some aspect of the crisis in Puerto Rico over 20 times. Yet, when you log onto social media, there is nothing about Puerto Rico. Articles are not being shared to the same extent they were months ago, and figures with large followings are not posting about the news. The problem remains that the information is not regularly broadcast to users. Instead, one must actively search for stories on Puerto Rico or Flint, Michigan because they aren’t in the headlines when someone turns on the news.
In Flint, Michigan, there are still 12,000 homes that need pipe replacements. Stories like Flint are far from over, and it’s hard to help alleviate the devastation when you don’t know what’s happening.
While social media can be good for speedy facts, it is not good if you’d like an in depth story on an issue. To fill in any gaps of knowledge, it is best to use both social media and direct sources such as to ensure you are up to date.