On 9/11, we turned on the TV -- now, we turn to social media

On 9/11, We Turned on the TV. Now, We Turn to Social Media

It's been 14 years since 9/11, and if you think back to that day, you'll probably remember learning details about the event from TV news.

With more recent tragedies and disasters, like the Boston Marathon bombing and Hurricane Sandy, Americans have gotten more of their news from social media — sometimes not even needing to turn on a TV.

A study by Pew Research Center says the number of people getting news on social media continues to rise, growing substantially — even from two years ago.

And that's likely because, whether you're looking for it or not, it doesn't take much scrolling to find news on Facebook or Twitter.

What's more, everyday citizens can report on events as they unfold. One-way communication, where officials pass information to the press who broadcast it to the public, has lost ground to the quick spread of first-person perspectives on social media.

See photos of 9/11:

9/11/2001: 14 most iconic images of 9/11
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On 9/11, we turned on the TV -- now, we turn to social media
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11, 2001: (FILE PHOTO) A fiery blasts rocks the south tower of the World Trade Center as the hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashes into the building September 11, 2001 in New York City. Almost two years after the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, the New York Port Authority is releasing transcripts on August 28, 2003 of emergency calls made from inside the twin towers. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Sarasota, UNITED STATES: TO GO WITH AFP STORY 'Americans mark 9/11 anniversary with new questions on vulnerability' - (FILES) US President George W. Bush has his early morning school reading event interupted by his Chief of Staff Andrew Card (L) shortly after news of the New York City airplane crashes was available in Sarasota, Florida 11 September 2001. AFP Photo Paul J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Americans mark 9/11 anniversary with new questions on vulnerability' - This 11 September 2001 file photo shows Marcy Borders covered in dust as she takes refuge in an office building after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed in New York. Borders was caught outside on the street as the cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the area. The woman was caught outside on the street as the cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the area. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
New York, UNITED STATES: TO GO WITH AFP STORY 'Americans mark 9/11 anniversary with new questions on vulnerability' - (FILES) The rubble of the World Trade Center smoulders following a terrorist attack 11 September 2001 in New York. Americans mark the fourth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks Sunday nagged by new burning questions about their readiness to confront a major disaster after the debacle of Hurricane Katrina. AFP PHOTO/Alex Fuchs (Photo credit should read ALEX FUCHS/AFP/Getty Images)
394471 13: Firefighter Tony James cries while attending the funeral service for New York Fire Department Chaplain Rev. Mychal Judge, in front of the St. Francis of Assisi Church September 15, 2001 in New York City. Judge died while giving the last rites to a fireman in the collapse of the World Trade Center. The World Trade Center was destroyed after both the landmark towers were struck by two hijacked planes in an alleged terrorist attack on September 11. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 8: The 'Tribute in Light' memorial as seen from Bayonne, New Jersey, consists of two shafts of light to represent the World Trade Center Twin Towers, is tested before the fifth anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks September 8, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Sylwia Kapuscinski/Getty Images)

NEW YORK- SEPTEMBER 3: A wax replica of Thomas Franklin's photograph from September 11, is seen at Madame Tussaud's wax museum September 3, 2002 in New York City. The replica is to be part of an exhibit at the museum called 'Hope: Humanity and Heroism.' (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


And that has its ups and downs. On one hand, access to news as it happens can keep people safe.

When Hurricane Sandy thrashed the East Coast in 2012, social media provided an extra layer of information for people close to the areas hardest hit. That news went out instantly, and in a disaster situation, the faster the better.

But there is also a dark side to this quick spread of information because sometimes, it's just plain wrong.

After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, misinformation was particularly rampant. That was partially due to — let's just call them — social media investigators.

Users on Reddit, 4Chan, Facebook and Twitter tried to figure out who was responsible and even named suspects. But none of those named were actually guilty: not the missing 22-year-old whose family missed him and not the two men who had their photo pasted on the front page of the New York Post.

So it might be worth thinking of social media as a trade-off: You can get news more quickly, but the responsibility to fact-check falls on you.

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