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New study shows social media is dumbing news consumers


The digital dream continues to darken.

A recent study by the PEW Research Center, Journalism and Media (PEW) shows that news consumers who rely on social media are less knowledgeable and less engaged than those who use other news sources.

“Analysis of polls… shows that those who rely on social media the most for political news are different from other news consumers in many ways. (They) are less likely than other news consumers to follow important news reports closely … (and) this group is also typically less well informed about these issues, ”says PEW.

The study found that social media news consumers tended to pay less attention to news than those who rely on most other sources. In early June 2020, only eight percent of US adults who received most of their political news on social media said they followed election news “very closely” compared to cable television (37 percent) and print media (33 percent). ). This difference is alarming for democracy.

“This relative lack of attention to the news goes hand in hand with a lower level of knowledge of key current events and politics … Respondents were asked 29 different fact-based questions, covering a variety of topics … Of those 29 questions, the average proportion that either question is correct, Americans who rely most on social media for political news are lower than those who rely most on other types of news sources other than local television, “the study says.

Demographically, adults who rely on social media the most for news are younger and less educated than those who mainly use several other platforms.

A study index measured political knowledge – high, medium, and low – using seven different types of sources; News website, radio, print media, cable television, network television, social media, and local television. Only 17 percent of social media users achieved good results, while 45 percent used news websites, 42 percent radio and 41 percent print media.

In six political stories, social media users showed the lowest level of awareness of any group. Social media users were also far less involved in reporting the coronavirus pandemic and were more likely to hear of conspiracy theories and other false claims.

How big is the problem then?

Another PEW study conducted in 2018 measured social media news sourcing in 38 developed and developing countries around the world. It found that a global median of 35 percent uses social media to get daily news. About half say they never use social networks to get messages.

When asked “How often do you use social networking sites to get news?” Canada ranks second among the advanced nations with 42 percent – behind South Korea with 57 percent and ahead of the United States with 39 percent.

Facebook is the king of social media news. 36 percent of Americans log on regularly to check their messages.

The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age is a landmark report by the Public Policy Forum that was published in January 2017. He examines the state of a much weaker news medium in Canada that has been severely disrupted by the digital age.

“The digital revolution has created a more open and diverse news ecosystem – and a meaner and less trustworthy one. It has also turned the “boots on the floor” model upside down, aided by a second pull in the office that upholds such sacred standards as verification and balance. Established news organizations have gasped for air, while native digital alternatives have not developed a journalistic mass, especially in the local news, ”the report said.

Between 2010 and 2017, 225 weekly and 27 daily newspapers were lost due to closure or merger.

“Anyone who views news as a public good will find that this decline is damaging civil discourse,” the report concluded.

According to The State of Social Media in Canada 2020, published by the Ryerson University Social Media Lab, 94 percent of online Canadians have a social media account, 83 percent on Facebook.

Canada has only 75 daily newspapers left with a circulation of just over 11 million copies per week.

The age of post-truth could not exist without the fact-free and emotional ecosphere of social media, where affirmative bias and selective exposure reinforce individual worldviews and reject contradicting information.

There is no one on social media to review the story.

As America’s Most Trustworthy Man once said, “Journalism is what we need for democracy to work.”

Ken Grafton is a writer from Wakefield, Que. His background includes global executive level experience in engineering and telecommunications.


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