The latest study from the Pew Research Center confirms that social media continues to be the driver behind a good chunk of the news consumed by Americans.
Being a glass-is-half-empty kind of person, it’s encouraging to see the numbers haven’t changed much over the last couple of years.
Taking a closer look at the data, I expected that Twitter would be a force in flinging news to and fro, a perception that probably comes from our good friend in the White House and the noise he generates from the platform. That’s not the case as Facebook dominates the distribution of news on social media with YouTube a distant second.
Taking a gender cut to the data, I’ve cherry-picked Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, the three platforms typically funneling news to business professionals. This chart breaks down the percent of each platform’s users that consume news by gender.
I’m not exactly sure what to surmise from females preferring Facebook and the gender breakdown essentially reversing with LinkedIn.
Now here comes to the copper lining (silver lining sounded too positive).
Most people recognize that the people behind the news on social media often view the truth as a secondary goal.
Pew drilled down into this perception by political party affiliation.
I wonder that if a Democrat were in the White House, would the two major parties switch places in their perception of news distributed on social media?
Looking at the big picture, social media is going to have a say in what news reaches people for years to come. Only so many baby pictures and aerial shots of ramen can fill a person’s content feed before dullness sets in.
At the risk of stating the obvious, if people simply check the source of the news flowing through the social media pipeline, the issue of accuracy largely goes away. I wish Pew had asked the survey participants if they typically take the time to identify the source of the news received via social media. I suspect a sizable percent of people, perhaps more than 50 percent, never bother.
Which means the recipient views a story from “Russians for Democracy” no differently than a story from “The Economist.” Not good.
The problem at its core has nothing to do with social media or other means of news distribution.
Instead, it’s about people taking the time — often just a few seconds — to figure out the source behind the information and answer the question, “Is that source trustworthy?”