In the IELTS writing test, you might be asked to talk about modern and controversial issues like social media and fake news. This is an interesting topic on which it is possible to have a range of opinions, so it makes a good task 2 question.
In this article, I’m going to show you a possible question about this topic, then suggest some vocabulary you can use to discuss it. At the end, I will give you my sample band 9 answer.
IELTS Task 2 Question about Social Media and News
Here’s a question I was shown recently that seems to have come from a 2021 IELTS exam paper. It asks you for your opinion about social media and the news:
With the rise of the internet more and more people are getting their news from social media platforms.
Do the advantages of this trend outweigh the disadvantages?
Before we do anything else, we must make sure that we understand the question. We are asked here whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Note that this does not mean you have to discuss both sides. You simply have to say which side has more and then talk about them. If you think one side has no advantages or disadvantages, you don’t need to give any.
Now for the statement before it. This is pretty simple to interpret. Basically, people are getting their news (ie reading the news) from social media. Ultimately, you should talk about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.
Vocabulary for Social Media and News
If you want to answer this question well, you will need some good vocabulary related to these two topics: social media and news. The precise vocabulary will depend on what you want to say. If you are very positive about this trend, you might want to highlight things like the speed of information exchange and the ability to warn against disasters. On the other hand, you might want to talk about fake news, disinformation, and so on.
I’m going to talk about the disadvantages of this trend, so my essay will centre on the problems of misinformation and fake news. Here is some vocabulary we can use to discuss this.
|Current events||This can be considered a synonym of “news.”||I used Twitter to keep up with current events.|
|Reality||This means what is real, but we can talk about “distorting reality” or “living in another reality” for when fake news makes the truth unclear or people believe something really crazy.||She used to be pretty normal but now she believes all this conspiracy stuff and so she’s practically living in another reality.|
|Liberal||A political perspective referring to openness.||Liberals usually believe in equality and sharing.|
|Conservative||A political perspective referring to maintaining traditions.||Conservatives usually want to protect their own interests first.|
|Interpretation||How we choose to process something such as information.||They heard the same news story but had totally different interpretations.|
|View through a lens||How we see things according to pre-existing biases or views.||People seem to just look at news stories through a predictable lens. If you’re liberal, you’ll interpret it totally different to how a conservative would.|
|Biased||Having a strong opinion that affects how you view something.||That channel is totally biased. They never tell the truth.|
|Misinformation||Information that is wrong.||Sometimes I think that Twitter is 90% misinformation.|
|Manipulation||The process of changing something. In this case, of changing people’s views.||The manipulation of people’s views by foreign powers is abhorrent.|
|Concerted effort||A strong, planned effort||There has been a concerted effort by foreign governments to influence this election.|
|Target||To focus one’s attentions (usually negatively) on something.||Their campaign targeted voters with a wide range of made-up stories.|
|Disharmony||The opposite of harmony.||China has actively sought to spread disharmony in the West by disseminating negative news stories.|
|Misleading||Something that may not be 100% untrue, but suggests the wrong thing.||News outlets on both sides of the political divide are guilty of spreading misleading information.|
|Sow discord||To make people unhappy or mistrustful.||There have been numerous attempts to sow discord in recent years and clearly they have been effective.|
Here’s a video with some more vocabulary related to the topic of technology, which is quite useful when dealing with social media and other modern issues:
Here is how I will structure my answer to the above question:
|Introduction||Introduce the issue – social media is now used to get news|
State my perspective – I think it is very dangerous
|Body paragraph 1||Focus on the idea of echo chambers (meaning people sharing news among people with their own biases)|
|Body paragraph 2||Focus on the idea of manipulation of the public by foreign and domestic agents|
|Conclusion||Summarise the essay and reaffirm position|
Remember that it is important to develop your ideas in IELTS, so you should not just cram many advantages and many disadvantages into your essay. It is far better to pick one big idea for a paragraph and then use each sentence to further develop that idea. You can add explanations and examples, or show the effects of an idea you have presented.
Here is my answer to the above question:
One of the biggest and yet most disturbing trends of the modern era is the increased use of social media for keeping up with current events. This essay will explain why that is such a dangerous development.
Whilst on the surface it may seem beneficial that people can read the news from their phone, the fact that they are doing so through social media is more than a little worrying. There are various reasons for this but perhaps the biggest and most obvious is the fact that people can now choose their version of reality. People who are liberal will have liberal friends that share liberal interpretations of news stories, and people who are conservative will do the opposite. The result is that these people practically live in different realities now. Every event that occurs is viewed through the lens of a completely biased political perspective, meaning that the truth is seldom given in objective terms. Take, for example, the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. Liberal people saw only reports of peaceful protests and conservatives saw mostly reports of violent ones. The result is that these people have both been fed misinformation and struggle to communicate.
Another very serious problem, and one that people often overlook, is that of manipulation. In 2016, the world saw the rise of Donald Trump through a concerted effort to target conservative Facebook users. More recently, the Myanmar government has used Facebook to encourage and justify a genocide, while China and Russia routinely use it to spread disharmony in the Western world, setting places like the United States on course for a culture war. This happens because people tend to believe what their friends say on social media, and by utilising the vast amounts of data collected by these technology giants, organisations are able to effectively spread their message by creating fake stories that are essentially what certain groups want or expect to hear. By creating such misleading news stories, they are able to sow discord and this has had an incalculably awful impact on our world.
In conclusion, whilst it may seem reasonable or even positive to have the news available through social media, it is in fact a terrible development that has been damning for the modern world.
You can see that I have given one big idea per body paragraph, with lots of explanation. The first body paragraph used the timely example of the Black Lives Matter protests and how these are skewed in the media, whilst the second body paragraph talked about the Trump election, the Myanmar genocide, and Russian and Chinese attempts to sow discord in the West. All of these issues help illuminate the main point by directly supporting my main ideas.
I have used all of the vocabulary from that section above, so you should check to see how it was used in this essay. Notice that my language is topic-specific but I have not gone out of my way to cram so-called advanced language into it. The most important thing is accuracy but there are definitely some uncommon words and phrases here.